• From the UN News Centre
SEOUL, KOREA — United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised the “invaluable partnership” between Rotary International and the UN, telling delegates gathered here for RI’s annual international conference that Rotarians had been instrumental in working with the UN to defeat polio.
“Our common activities are saving lives. And they are based on a spirit of trust,” he said. “My main message is simple. Just four words: ‘Thank you very much.’ You help the United Nations reach our goals. And, you help the world understand the United Nations.”
Noting that Rotarians had even helped with the founding of the UN, participating in the San Francisco Conference from which it emerged, Ban said that throughout the history of both organizations, Rotarians have been “using their time, funds and energy to help our world,” and he specifically noted their “monumental contributions” to eradicating polio.
“The United Nations is proud to be your partner in ending this debilitating disease. When Rotary International launched its campaign in 1985, more than 350,000 children were paralyzed by polio every year,” Ban said, underscoring that individual Rotarians have generously contributed an astounding $1.2 billion to the campaign. Moreover, they have engaged donor governments to secure an additional $6 billion in funds.
“And, Rotarians are on the frontlines of this fight. They travel to communities. They speak to parents. They spread hope. And, they contribute to a safer world for everyone. I congratulate Rotary International for helping reduce polio by 99%” said the UN chief, emphasizing that from hundreds of thousands of cases each year, now there are fewer than two dozen.
Africa is polio free, he continued, and noted that while Afghanistan and Pakistan still are affected, the organizations are working hard to help them stamp out polio.
“Rotary’s PolioPlus program has helped to avert massive suffering. Some 16 million people who would have been paralyzed by polio can walk. Around a million and a half children are alive today thanks to PolioPlus,” he explained, hailing the program’s “immeasurable” results, in both human and financial terms.
“We are all anxiously waiting for ‘Case Zero,’ [but] until that day comes, we have to redouble our efforts. Our partnership is stronger than polio, but we must keep up the fight. Please continue to raise your voices, hold your governments accountable and campaign hard until we end this disease.”
Ban stressed that the campaign is difficult and even, in some instances, dangerous, as any frontline workers risk their lives to vaccinate children. Others have been killed in the effort, he said, paying tribute to “these anti-polio champions” by leaving a polio-free world to future generations