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A Polio Free World - Rotary's Dream Within Grasp

An area covering one-third of the world's population was today (Sunday 2pm NZ) certified polio-free by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as part of its global eradication programme in partnership with UNICEF, Rotary clubs around the world and the USA National Centre for Diseases.

The WHO Western Pacific region covers 1.6 billion people in 37 countries from China in the north and west, to New Zealand and its Pacific island neighbours in the South and French Polynesia in the east.

The eradication programme was mooted in 1979 and in 1985 Rotary International launched PolioPlus, the most ambitious humanitarian undertaking ever made by a community organisation. By the end of the campaign in 2005 Rotary will have contributed $US500million ($NZ1.25billion) to assist WHO.

New Zealand Rotary clubs and their local communities have so far donated over $US1.4million to the international effort.

Today's announcement was made at a summit meeting in Kyoto, Japan, hosted by Rotary International, the Japanese government and WHO.

Dr Shigeru Omi, Regional Director of WHO, said Rotary International had been a pioneering force in a major public health victory and its volunteers had been an inspiration.

In 120 countries around the world, Rotary has mobilised hundreds of thousands of its members and community groups to assist clinics and

health workers supply vaccine to tens of millions of children under five in the world's biggest private collaboration in a public health campaign.

Earlier this year 100,000 Rotarians, families and friends helped the Indian Government immunise 130 million children in one day - a global record for a public health event.

The West Pacific region is the second block of countries certified polio free. The America's received certification in 1994.

In the last ten years the number of polio cases thoughout the world has plunged by 95 per cent.

Dr Grattan O'Connell, of Remuera, Auckland, spokesperson for PolioPlus in New Zealand and a former Director of Rotary International, in Japan for the announcement, said the campaign was on track for the world to be certified polio-free in 2005. With Rotary's assistance the campaign had been accelerated and WHO was aiming for an end to polio transmission by the end of this year.

Dr O'Connell said that surveillance would still be required until at least 2005 - when Rotary celebrates its centenary - to ensure the disease was beaten. Countries like New Zealand had to be vigilant with its own immunisation programmes to ensure protection against imported virus.

Rotary International has 1.2million members in 163 countries including 10,000 in New Zealand.

end

Issued on behalf of Rotary International New Zealand

For further information contact:

Rob Crabtree, District Governor-Elect, Rotary District 9920

Phone: 09 273 2065 (bus.) 09 535 4035 (hm)


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