EVANSTON, USA, April 24, 2012-- Rotary International has recognized His Excellency Goodluck Jonathan, president of Nigeria, as a Polio Eradication Champion for his leadership and dedication to a polio-free world.
Presented to Jonathan on April 23rd, by incoming Chairman of The Rotary Foundation, Wilf Wilkinson, 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, including nearly 6,000 in Nigeria alone, I would like to express the solidarity of Rotary members in standing firmly beside President Jonathan and the Nigerian people in the polio eradication effort. I am honored to recognize the commitment of President Goodluck Jonathan for support of a polio-free Nigeria, and a polio-free world,” said Wilkinson.
During Jonathan’s term, Nigeria posted a 95 percent decline in polio cases in 2010 as compared with 2009. However, 2011 saw a resurgence of the disease (62 reported cases), emphasizing the need for continued vigilance in the fight against polio.
Jonathan renewed his attention to polio eradication with the launch of Nigeria’s Emergency Action Plan – a comprehensive strategy to accelerate progress toward polio eradication at every level. To support the plan, Jonathan announced that he would significantly increase funding for polio eradication activities: US$30 million annually for 2012 and 2013.
In receiving Rotary’s Polio Eradication Champion Award, Jonathan joins a roster of distinguished leaders, including India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, current UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and former Secretary General Kofi Annan, President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan, and former Chairperson of the African Union Commission Alpha Oumar Konare.
A highly infectious disease that can cause paralysis and sometimes death, polio still strikes children in parts of Africa and South Asia. As there is no cure, the best protection is prevention. For as little as 60 cents worth of vaccine, a child can be protected for life. Globally, the number of polio cases has been reduced from 350,000 children annually in the mid-1980s to fewer than 700 reported cases all last year, a decline of more than 99 percent. Yet, challenges remain in the three polio-endemic countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria.
Rotary made polio eradication its top philanthropic goal in 1985. As the volunteer arm of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative -- a public/private partnership including the World Health Organization, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation -- Rotary has contributed more than US$ 1.2 billion to ending polio, including some US$145 million to support polio eradication activities in Nigeria.
Distributed by the African Press Organization on behalf of Rotary International.