Foreign Minister Bob Carr’s speech at the “Global Citizen Gathering” organised by the Global Poverty Project and UNICEF to celebrate Australia’s role in efforts to end polio.
Many health issues demand our attention – and there’s a risk the world could become complacent about like polio, an ‘almost eradicated’ disease, and give it lower priority.
But we can’t reduce our efforts when eradication of this disease is within reach.
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.
In 2011, Australia announced we would contribute $50 million to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative over four years.
The funds are being used to help purchase vaccines and to monitor and respond to polio outbreaks.
When the Prime Minister announced Australia’s $50 million contribution, she paid tribute to the personal contributions of many Australians to the cause. She also paid tribute to Sir Clem Renouf, who in the 1970s, as Rotary President, led the international campaign to vaccinate every child against polio. I pay tribute to his pioneering work again today.
This global polio initiative is an effective partnership of national governments with the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Rotary International, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Red Cross.
There are the many volunteers working on polio eradication in developing countries.
India was certified as polio free in 2012.
And efforts are now focused on the three remaining countries where polio is endemic – Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan, Australia has provided $1.2 million to the World Health Organization for vaccinations in Uruzgan Province.
Australia’s contribution to polio eradication is part of our broader work to improve maternal and child health and save the lives of women and children in developing countries.
Around the world, as in Australia, it has been the introduction of routine mass immunisation that has saved millions of lives.
Australia supports routine immunisation for a range of diseases, including polio, through our support for the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the Global Alliance on Vaccines and Immunisation.
Immunisation programs helped reduce the number of child deaths from 12.4 million in 1990 to 7.6 million in 2010.
Last year alone, the Australian aid program helped to immunise more than two million children, reducing child deaths and illness.
Australia remains committed to supporting this effort.