Building bipartisan support for the end of polio

UNICEF and the Global Poverty Project bring together Australian political and community leaders in support of polio eradication.

Australia’s Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, Deputy Opposition Leader, Julie Bishop, Young Australian of the Year, Akram Azimi, and The End of Polio Campaign Manager, Michael Sheldrick at the Global Citizen Gathering. Alicia Crawford/Global Poverty Project
Australia’s Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, Deputy Opposition Leader, Julie Bishop, Young Australian of the Year, Akram Azimi, and The End of Polio Campaign Manager, Michael Sheldrick at the Global Citizen Gathering.
Alicia Crawford/Global Poverty Project

15 March 2013- Both sides of politics came together in Canberra, Australia, on Tuesday 12 March to declare their support for ending polio.

The Global Citizen Gathering, co-hosted by UNICEF and the Global Poverty Project, was held on the lawns of Parliament House to catalyse support for polio eradication among Australian political leaders in the lead-up to the Global Vaccine Summit to be held in Abu Dhabi this April.

Both the Foreign Minister, Senator the Hon Bob Carr and the Deputy Opposition Leader, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, spoke of their commitment to ending this disease.

“Australia commends the initiative of Bill Gates, the UN Secretary General and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi in convening in convening a Global Vaccine Summit in April in Abu Dhabi. The Summit will include the launch of an Endgame Strategy to eradicate polio by 2018. Australia is proud to be a partner in this final push to polio eradication,” said Senator Carr.

In a statement read out at the event, Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, applauded Australia’s commitment to polio eradication. Meanwhile the Young Australian of the Year, Akram Azimi, took the opportunity to share the story of how Australian foreign aid dollars had changed his life:

“I am walking and breathing freely today because Australian tax payers contributed funds to vaccinate children – like me – in war-torn Afghanistan against polio. These Australian tax payers chose not to leave my health to blind chance—and for this, I could not be more grateful.”

Other speakers at the event included Pakistani High Commissioner Abdul Malik Abdullah, Dr Julie Hall, Polio Programme Lead at UNICEF, and Samah Hadid, the Australian Director of the Global Poverty Project.

On the same day in New Zealand, the Global Poverty Project’s The End of Polio campaign gave a presentation to Members of Parliament, Rotarians and others; highlighting the progress achieved in the battle to end this disease.

And while The End of Polio campaign was focused on Canberra and Wellington, Bill Gates, Rotary International and the UN Foundation’s Shot at Life campaign were taking on Washington DC. The group came together on 14 March for a rally on the steps of Capitol Hill before a lunch briefing was held for Congressional staff members. Discussion focused on the importance of continued US support for the worldwide campaign to eradicate polio.

With the Global Vaccine Summit and the launch of the new polio eradication strategic plan just around the corner, members of the global movement to end polio are pulling out all the stops to build support among donor governments. Without sufficient funding for the new plan, the world could miss the opportunity to end the scourge of polio once and for all.

As Dr Hall said at the Global Citizen Gathering last Tuesday, “we are, as Rotary says, this close to finishing the job. This close to creating a polio free world and this close to finding a path to the missed children – missed for polio and missed for many other essential services too.”


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