(Editor’s note: the following letter was addressed to MP John Weston. A copy was forwarded to The Question for publication.)
I write to express appreciation for Canada’s longstanding leadership in support of global polio eradication — a goal which is the highest priority for Rotarians throughout the world, and to encourage continued support of global polio eradication within CIDA’s 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 $1 billion US, including more than $22.7 million US contributed by Canadian Rotarians, and countless hours of volunteer service toward the goal of a polio free world.
The government of Canada has invested $350 US in this historic effort and has worked side-by-side with Rotarian 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 $945 million US 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. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative 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 you to work with your peers in parliament to ensure Canada’s continued leadership by providing a multi-year commitment of $35 million US annually to support global polio eradication. I also encourage favourable consideration of a special $1 million match for a CIDA/Rotary partnership polio fundraiser what 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 CIA/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 up to $50 billion US within the next 20 years.
President, Rotary of Whistler Millenium