Rotary recognizes Canada’s commitment to polio

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canada’s continued support for polio eradication celebrated at the 2018 Rotary International Convention.

Justin Trudeau, prime minister of Canada, speaks to Rotarians. Rotary has been the driving force behind polio eradication from the beginning. © Rotary International/Alyce Henson
Justin Trudeau, prime minister of Canada, speaks to Rotarians. Rotary has been the driving force behind polio eradication from the beginning. © Rotary International/Alyce Henson

More than 25,000 members of Rotary clubs from 175 countries and territories gathered in Toronto, Canada this week for Rotary’s annual International Convention.

On the convention’s final day, Justin Trudeau, prime minister of Canada, was presented with Rotary’s Polio Eradication Champion Award in recognition of his leadership and Canada’s contributions to polio eradication. In his remarks to Rotarians, Trudeau highlighted Canada’s continued commitment to working towards a world without polio, a world with gender equity, and a world where everyone has a chance to succeed. He expressed a wish that his children would grow up in a polio-free world, and encouraged Rotarians to continue their important work to achieve eradication worldwide.

Rotary International President Ian Riseley presented the award to the Prime Minister, drawing attention to Canada’s recent pledge of C$100 million toward global polio eradication—made last year at Rotary’s 2017 convention—and noting that Canada had already fulfilled that commitment. He also recognized the Prime Minister’s leadership at the recent G7 summit, stating, “Prime Minister, we are grateful for your partnership: your personal commitment to polio eradication and your nation’s longstanding support of this historic effort. We promise that we will continue to do our very best to live up to that confidence —for the benefit of all the world’s children, now and forever.”

Progress toward global polio eradication was a recurring theme in major speeches and workshops throughout the convention, including a keynote address by World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. In his remarks, Dr. Tedros thanked Rotarians for their tireless efforts and appealed for continued focus in the fight for a polio-free world, stating, “We cannot be complacent. We must finish the job. We must wipe polio from the face of the earth.”

The convention also featured a session highlighting the critical role women play in the global effort to end polio, including Rotary volunteers who have been involved in all aspects of polio eradication, such as immunization activities in the field, fundraising, public awareness, and advocacy. Thanks to an onsite virtual reality booth, attendees even had the opportunity to walk in the shoes of a volunteer immunizer in Uganda.

Since Rotary launched its PolioPlus program in 1985, the efforts of millions of Rotarians worldwide have helped reduce polio cases by 99.9%. PolioPlus has become the largest internationally-coordinated public health initiative in history. At the conference this week, it was clear that Rotarians around the globe are continuing to lead the way – ensuring that every last child receives a life-saving vaccine, and celebrating everyone committed to ensuring a polio-free world.

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