Remarks to a Joint Meeting of the Mississauga Rotary Clubs
World Polio Day
October 24, 2014
Brad Butt, M.P., Mississauga-Streetsville
Check Against Delivery
Fellow Rotarians, Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for the invitation to speak to you today on World Polio Day as both a Rotarian and on behalf of the Government of Canada and the Minister of International Development the Hon. Christian Paradis.
I want to start by thanking Rotary International, the Rotary Foundation of Canada and all of the individual chapters across Canada for keeping polio eradication as your number one international development priority and for your excellent partnerships with the Government of Canada, the Gates Foundation and other NGOs on this life saving measure.
World Polio Day established was established by Rotary International over a decade ago and is held on October 24th in celebration of the birth of Dr. Jonas Salk, the man who led the first team to develop a vaccine against polio.
The development of the polio vaccine reduced polio worldwide by 99% with only Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan as the remaining polio endemic countries today. And although progress continues to be made in these areas, we have heard the news that in some regions polio may be making a comeback after most of us believed the battle was won.
While tremendous progress has been made since 1988, pockets of wild poliovirus remain, leaving unvaccinated children at risk of lifelong, irreversible paralysis. In light of continued polio outbreaks and funding shortages, the 65th World Health Assembly declared the completion of polio eradication a global public health programmatic emergency in May 2012, resulting in a global intensification of polio vaccination activities.
Canada remains committed to eradicating polio around the world and supports finishing the job as fast as possible.
Vaccinations are a key element of Canada’s leadership on maternal, newborn and child health, and Canada, through Prime Minister’s Muskoka Initiative, works to ensure every child is reached.
Canada remains concerned about the recent polio outbreaks and will continue to monitor the situation, however we remain confident that they will be contained.
Canada works with UNICEF and the World Health Organization, as well as with the Aga Khan Foundation and of course Rotary on this file.
Working with our partners through this Canada is leading the way to the eradication of Polio.
And Canada has been a long-term supporter of polio eradication. It first included polio on the G8 agenda during its Presidency of the 2002 G8 Summit in Kananaskis.
Canada has disbursed over $472 million since 2000 and ranks as the 8th largest donor for the 1985-2014 period. Canada’s support to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative has contributed to the immunization of millions of children around the globe.
At the Global Vaccine Summit, held in Abu Dhabi on April 24-25, 2013, Canada re-iterated its support for polio eradication initiatives and pledged $250 million over six years to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative Endgame Strategy.
Canada is currently a co-chair of the Polio Partner Group, a group of global stakeholders overseeing polio eradication in an effort to improve the effectiveness of the global response to polio.
The Government of Canada recently made a contribution of $20 million over 3 years to the Pakistan Polio Plus Initiative. This is a joint initiative between the Government of Canada, Rotary and Gates Foundation to engage Canadians in the global effort to eradicate polio in this country.
This past January, I visited Lahore, Pakistan and met with the front line workers with UNICEF that are working with the communities and its leaders on administering the polio vaccine. While challenges and stigmas remain, they are making great progress and reaching more children than ever before.
In a recent edition of The Rotarian, I noted the Five Reasons to Eradicate Polio. It Saves Lives, It’s Achievable, It’s a Good Investment, It Strengthens the System and It Sets the Stage.
Experts say if we choose to control polio rather than eradicate it, more than 10 million children under the age of five could be paralyzed by the disease in the next 40 years.
We have the tools to end the disease and the means to reach all children. The new bivalent vaccine successfully targets the two remaining strains of polio in one dose.
An independent study published in the medical journal Vaccine estimates that the $9 billion global investment in a polio-free world will net an economic benefit of $40 billion to $50 billion over the next 20 years.
Rotary reports that your polio eradication efforts have established an active disease surveillance network in all countries that is supporting other health interventions, including measles vaccinations and the distribution of deworming tablets and bed nets.
And Rotary should be congratulated for the ability to reach all children with the polio vaccine as this is proof that you can succeed on your next major global health initiative.
The Rotarian magazine also reported the following about Canada.
“Canadian Rotarians have held several letter-writing campaigns to persuade Members of Parliament to support polio eradication. For a campaign in August, Rotary Foundation Trustee Chair and past RI president Wilfrid J. Wilkinson and international Polioplus Committee Chair Robert S. Scott, both from Canada, took the lead by writing to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. A copy of that letter went to every Rotarian in the country, along with another asking them to contact their own Member of Parliament. Within three days, Wilkinson heard back from Rotarians who had spoken with the Prime Minister or written friends in government positions to encourage them to spread the message. “That personal touch is what’s needed,” Wilkinson says.
In September, the Canadian government announced a contribution to the polio eradication effort at a side meeting during the United Nations General Assembly. The Canadian International Development Agency and the Bill & Melinda gates Foundation will each give to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative $1 for every $1 raised by Canadian Rotarians up to $1 million. Upon completion, the initiative will generate a total of $3 million. “The fundraising by the Rotarians allows them to ask for support from the Canadian public at large,” Wilkinson said. “The fact that the Government of Canada and the Gates Foundation are behind Rotary’s polio eradication efforts is a big plus and helps our overall awareness efforts.”
As most of you know, Prime Minister Stephen Harper received the Rotary Foundation Polio Eradication Champion Award on October 18, 2014 for his longstanding support and continued leadership in efforts to eliminate polio around the world. The Prime Minister accepted the award at a ceremony hosted by the Canadian Rotary Foundation in Toronto.
The Polio Eradication Champion Award is the highest honour the Rotary Foundation presents to heads of state, health agency leaders and others who have made significant contributions to the global polio eradication effort. The Rotary Foundation is an international organization that helps fund humanitarian activities, from local service projects to global initiatives. It undertakes worldwide Rotary campaigns such as eradicating polio and promoting peace. Rotarians and friends of Rotary support the Foundation’s work through voluntary contributions.
On behalf of Prime Minister Harper and the Government of Canada, I would like to thank Rotary for honouring him with this very prestigious award.
There is no question in my mind that the world – and Canada – would not be so heavily focussed on polio eradication if it were not for Rotary being its champion.
So on this World Polio Day let us be thankful for the tremendous work that has been done, the fact that we are this close to eradication, that we have great partners at home and around the world and that we are making a lifelong difference in the lives of millions of children around the world.
Makes you proud to be a Rotarian and proud to be Canadian.
May God continue to bless the great work of Rotary around the world and may God continue to bless Canada.