WASHINGTON, May 8, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, Rotary International will recognize five members of Congress as Polio Eradication Champions for their efforts to eliminate polio. The event, which will take place at the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., honors U.S. leaders who have played a key role in the fight to eradicate the disease.
The 2013 honorees are Senator Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Senator Johnny Isaakson (Georgia), Representative Jack Kingston (Georgia), Representative Jim McDermott (Washington) and Representative Jim Moran (Virginia).
Rotary established the Polio Eradication Champion Award in 1995 to recognize heads of state, health agency leaders and others who have made a significant contribution to the global eradication of polio. Past recipients of the Rotary award include Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany; Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India; Prime Minister Jean Claude Juncker of Luxembourg; President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria; President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan; United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; and 37 current Members of the 113th Congress who have been previously recognized by Rotary as Champions.
In April, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) announced a new endgame strategic plan that leads to polio eradication by 2018. The plan requires commitments of US$5.5 billion in funding to achieve this global health milestone. If successful, polio will be the second human disease to be eradicated, after smallpox.
At last month's Global Vaccine Summit in Abu Dhabi, world governments, private individuals and others pledged US$4 billion to the GPEI polio endgame plan. Rotary International is asking the U.S. government to provide $US200 million in funding for 2014, through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Since the mid-1980s, the United States government has contributed more than $2.1 billion to polio eradication.
"Thanks in great part to the support of the U.S. government, the world stands on the cusp of a historic victory over polio," said Jim Lacy, past president of Rotary International and current chair of the organization's U.S. Polio Eradication Advocacy Task Force. "The leadership and support of present and past Polio Eradication Champions has been crucial to ensuring that every child is protected against this preventable disease. Together, we can ensure that no child will ever again suffer the crippling effects of polio." Polio once struck thousands of Americans during epidemics into the 1950s. Although the disease is at its lowest levels ever—just 24 reported cases in 2013—polio has never been stopped in Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Rotary made polio eradication its top philanthropic goal in 1985, and has since joined forces with the World Health Organization, CDC, UNICEF and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in the GPEI partnership. Rotary has contributed more than $1.2 billion to polio eradication efforts, including more than $US243 million in contributions by Rotarians in the United States.
Rotary is a global humanitarian organization with more than 1.2 million members in 34,000 Rotary clubs in over 200 countries and geographical areas. Rotary members are men and women who are business, professional and community leaders with a shared commitment to make the world a better place through humanitarian service. The first Rotary club was founded in Chicago in 1905.
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