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Polio Eradication Push: Remember The 'Heroic Vaccinators'

For Immediate Release

Polio Eradication Push Calls For Kiwis To Remember The ‘Heroic Vaccinators’

The Global Poverty Project turned up the intensity in it’s efforts to mobilize public and political support for The End of Polio campaign with the announcement of an experienced polio campaigner being assigned to Wellington for the next 2 months.

“d’Arcy Lunn brings frontline experience from polio eradication efforts in Pakistan and India and he’ll be a major asset as we reach out to schools, MPs and Rotarians throughout New Zealand,” said GPP NZ Country Director William Watterson. “Lunn’s extraordinary efforts in Canada last year where he successfully forged a diverse coalition and gained significant public and political support will be a model we’ll look to duplicate here.”

The global effort to eradicate polio suffered a serious setback in December when 9 vaccinator volunteers where murdered in coordinated attacks in Pakistan. The long-standing polio initiative received renewed media attention and US President Obama responded to the attacks by passing a bill ending humanitarian aliases for spies and criticizing the CIA’s strategy of using faux vaccinators in it’s efforts to identify Osama bin Laden.

“The attacks in Pakistan have strengthened our resolve and determination to see this monumental effort for polio eradication come to a successful completion,” said Watterson. “We mourn the loss of the victims but we proceed with greater urgency to see the end of polio.”

Lunn will be working with Wellington schools duplicating the grassroots Purple Pinkie initiative he promoted in Canada where people take photos of their purple painted pinkies to show their support for the vaccinators on the ground in Pakistan. He’ll also replicate his high-level political engagement as he approaches key members of NZ government to show their support.

“In my work on The End of Polio campaign, I’ve met world leaders like UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and key influencers such as Bill Gates,” said Lunn. “I’m here in Wellington to ensure NZ leaders play a role at the Vaccination Summit in Abu Dhabi this April. New Zealand has a long tradition of showing moral leadership on the world stage, encouraging others to do the same.”

This week, the world medical community received a reminder of the need to remain vigilant in the effort to wipe out polio. Environmental samples of sewage in Egypt were found to contain traces of wild polio virus similar to strands recently present in Pakistan. Egyptian officials have called for further investigation and immediate assistance from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

Lunn says that part of his mission is to make sure that New Zealanders do not forget about the ‘heroes’ who are risking their lives to reach every last child with the polio vaccine in order for the world to become polio-free.

“Having worked with UNICEF in Pakistan last year I can only say the polio program and vaccinators are truly inspiring,” he said. “The collaboration of UNICEF, WHO, Rotary, CDC and Gates Foundation is an amazing global partnership that is incredibly effective not only at the highest levels but also down to the individual vaccinators.”

The efforts of the vaccinators is central to the new documentary, featuring UNICEF Ambassador Ewan McGregor working with the charity, that is being screened on the Living Channel on Sunday. ‘The Cold Chain with Ewan McGregor’ provides a rare glimpse into the logistical, geographic and physical challenges that confront vaccinators in the race to deliver vaccines to remote locations before the refrigeration (cold chain) expires.

“The incredible story of the cold chain is just a window into the inspiring and effective work of UNICEF and others to not only vaccinate every last child but also set up programs for greater community health and health infrastructure,” said Lunn.

Global Poverty Project is working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to focus global attention on the final push to eradicate polio. The End of Polio campaign is designed to bring together key players in this effort and communicate their accomplishments to the public.

‘The Cold Chain with Ewan McGregor’ airs on the Living Channel on Sunday 27 January at 8:30 pm.

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