LONDON, March 14, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --
Rotary International President Kalyan Banerjee will recognize His Excellency David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, as a PolioEradicationChampion for his leadership and dedication to a polio-free world.
"We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rid the world of the evil of polio," said Prime Minister Cameron. "The commitment of Britain and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, with the support of millions of Rotarians, has helped bring this crippling and often deadly disease to the brink of eradication."
International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell will receive the award on Mr. Cameron's behalf, at a reception at the House of Commons. The Polio Eradication Champion Award is the highest honor Rotary presents to heads of state, health agency leaders and others who have made significant contributions to the global polio eradication effort.
"On behalf of Rotary's 1.2 million members worldwide, I am honored to recognize the commitment of Prime Minister Cameron for his outstanding support of efforts to eradicate polio," said Banerjee. "My own country, India, has just surpassed the milestone of a year without polio. We would not be so close to achieving the goal of a polio free world without the longstanding support and continued leadership of the United Kingdom. We encourage other G8 countries to follow the UK's lead in continuing their support so that the world will soon be polio free."
The UK has been a strong supporter of the global polio eradication initiative with contributions and commitments totaling more than US$960 million through 2012.
"It is an honour for the UK and the Prime Minister in particular to be recognised in this way," said International Development Secretary Mitchell. "Britain is at the forefront of the fight against polio and last year alone, Britain helped fully immunise over 45 million children from the crippling disease. None of this would be possible without the public private partnership of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and the tireless leadership of Rotary International and its dedicated members. I urge all other countries and organisations to play their part now to achieve our ultimate goal of a world free from polio."
In receiving Rotary's Polio Eradication Champion Award, Cameron joins a roster of distinguished leaders, including India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari.
A highly infectious disease that can cause paralysis and sometimes death, polio still strikes children in parts of Africa and South Asia. As there is no cure, the best protection is prevention. For as little as 60 cents worth of oral vaccine, a child can be protected for life. Globally, the number of polio cases has been reduced from 350,000 children annually in the mid-1980s to fewer than 700 reported cases all last year, a decline of more than 99 percent. Yet, challenges remain in the three polio-endemic countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria. India, long considered the global epicenter of the disease, was removed from the polio-endemic list in February.
Rotary made polio eradication its top philanthropic goal in 1985. As the volunteer arm of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative -- a public/private partnership including world governments, the World Health Organization, Rotary International, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation -- Rotary has contributed more than US$1.2 billion to polio eradication.
Rotary International is a global humanitarian service organization with 1.2 million members in more than 200 countries and regions.