In June this year, President Deby Itno publicly reaffirmed his commitment to polio eradication when the symbolic “Kick Polio Out of Africa” football arrived in Chad during its ceremonial tour through 23 polio-affected and high-risk African countries.
Behind schedule, due to unexpected delays, the football arrived late on Wednesday, June 9 – many thought – too late for President Idris Deby Itno to sign. But the President’s commitment to eradicate polio from Chad, Africa and the World was so great that he delayed an important international state visit to sign the ball, so that Chad would not be left out of the campaign.
Upon receiving the ball, President Deby Itno declared that he would continue to publicly demonstrate his commitment to “kicking polio out of Chad” by personally launching future rounds of polio immunization campaigns.
The decision taken to recognize His Excellency Idris Deby Itno, President of Chad, with the Polio Eradication Champion Award on August 8 for his leadership and dedication in the support of a polio-free world, was well-deserved.
The award, presented by Dr. Robert Scott, Chair of Rotary’s International PolioPlus Committee (above), is the highest award Rotary presents to honor heads of state, health agency leaders and others who have made significant contributions toward polio eradication.
“On behalf of Rotary’s 1.2 million members worldwide, I am honored to recognize the commitment of President Idris Deby Itno for his outstanding support of a polio-free world,” said Bob Scott as he presented the award at a gala gathering to celebrate the event.
President Deby Itno’s commitment to polio eradication spans more than a decade. In 2000, President Deby Itno issued a strong presidential directive to provincial leaders to help ensure that children were being vaccinated against the crippling disease. Chad remained polio-free for a number of years before imported cases from neighboring polio-endemic Nigeria reinfected the country in 2003. This year, Chad has reported 14 polio cases, which demonstrates the need for continued vigilance against the disease.
This spring, President Deby Itno launched mass countrywide polio immunization campaigns and announced that he was personally declaring “war” on polio and committed CFA 4 billion (US$8 million) to support polio immunization efforts in Chad.
In receiving Rotary’s Polio Eradication Champion Award, President Idris Deby Itno joins a group of other distinguished leaders whom Rotary has honored – including India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, current UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and former Secretary General Kofi Annan, President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan, and former Chairperson of the African Union Commission Alpha Oumar Konare.
The KPOA team send warm congratulations to President Idris Deby Itno on this milestone achievement.