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Viewpoint: Polio needs to be eradicated

By Jan Gisborne Canada has shown long-standing leadership in support of global polio eradication, a goal which is the highest priority for Rotarians throughout the world.

By Jan Gisborne Canada has shown long-standing leadership in support of global polio eradication, a goal which is the highest priority for Rotarians throughout the world. We all need to encourage continued support of global polio eradication through Canadian International Development Agency’s (CIDA) budget.

The global eradication of polio, a disease that cripples a child for life, is the top priority of Rotary International. Rotarians have dedicated more than US$1 billion, including more than US$22.7 million contributed by Canadian Rotarians, and countless hours of volunteer service toward the goal of a polio-free world.

As a member of the Rotary Club of Powell River and Area Governor for the Sunshine Coast, I am also the Polio Plus Coordinator for Rotary District 5040. I have travelled to India and Nigeria to assist in the polio immunization of children and have toured hospitals and clinics that deal with the victims of polio. I also happen to be a polio survivor from the epidemic that affected the West Coast in 1953. 

I cannot stress how strongly I feel about eradicating polio. 

I urge our MP John Weston, West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky, to ensure that the government of Canada supports the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI).

The government of Canada has invested US$350 million in this historic effort and has worked side by side with Rotarians and the global partnership to conquer polio. When Rotary International and the government of Canada first began supporting polio immunization efforts in 1985, polio infected more than 350,000 children every year in over 125 countries. Today, only three countries (Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan) have never stopped transmission of polio.

India, which many predicted would be the last bastion of polio, was removed from the list of endemic countries in February after going a year without a single case. Polio incidence in 2012 is 65 per cent lower than it was at this point in 2011 and the number of cases is lower and more geographically confined than at any other point in recorded history.

This dramatic progress is juxtaposed against a shortfall of US$945 million in funds needed for the remainder of 2012 and 2013 to conduct essential polio eradication activities in the remaining polio-affected and at-risk countries. GPEI is also working to develop a strategic plan for the five-year period beyond 2013, during which the world anticipates the achievement of polio eradication.

I encourage Weston to work with his peers in parliament to ensure Canada’s continued leadership by providing a multi-year commitment of US$35 million annually to support global polio eradication. I also encourage favourable consideration of a special $1 million match for a CIDA/Rotary partnership polio fundraiser that would increase public awareness, provide needed resources and draw attention to the unique leadership role played by the government of Canada in the effort. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has expressed strong interest in further leveraging these funds by providing an additional $1 million for a total of CIDA/Rotary/Gates collaborative commitment of $3 million. These complementary funding commitments will ensure that we seize the window of opportunity to conquer this crippling disease, an achievement which is anticipated to generate savings of US$40-50 billion within the next 20 years.

Jan Gisborne is a member of The Rotary Club of Powell River, Assistant Governor for the Sunshine Coast area and Polio Plus Coordinator District 5040. She is requesting others contact MP John Weston asking further support of the global polio eradication effort.

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