UNICEF and Rotary extend partnership to fight polio

Officials with UNICEF’s executive board have approved an extension of their partnership with Rotary International this week to continue their global fight against polio.

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake applauded Rotary International for its enduring commitment to the fight against the sometimes fatal childhood disease. Over a million Rotarians have volunteered to help raise more $900 million for polio eradication over the course of the past 25 years.

“I do believe this is the easiest of the decisions the board will be making,” Lake said.
Carl Wilhelm Stenhammar, chair of the Rotary Foundation Trustees, also praised the efforts.

“Rotary International deeply values the longstanding relationship with UNICEF,” Stenhammar said. “Working together, we have succeeded in reducing the number of children affected by polio by more than 99 percent.”

The extension will allow the partnership to run through 2015. The partnership was initially established in 1990.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, led by Rotary International, UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has made impressive gains.

In 1988, before the initiative was launched, an estimated 350,000 children in over 125 countries were paralyzed each year as a result of polio. Approximately 1,600 cases were reported worldwide in 2009 and only four countries remain endemic for the polio virus.

“We are at a historic moment,” Lake said. “We are absolutely committed to this goal.”