Africa’s good governance icon gives polio big boost in Kampala …

July 26, 2010

Above: Mo Ibrahim – founder and chair of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.

Rotary’s promise to kick polio out of Africa and the world received a big boost  from Celtel founder Mo Ibrahim by calling upon African leaders who met at the 15th African Union Summit in Kampala to finish the job of polio eradication. The 53-member bloc that gathered at the AU summit focused on health issues, peace and security, infrastrcture, energy and food security during its three-day summit.  

“While the fight against polio has been overwhelmingly successful, it’s important to remember that it has not been won. Although numbers of new cases have drastically decreased, outbreaks and epidemics are a constant threat. This is not the time to relax and say ‘job done’,” wrote the Sudanese-born telecommunication entrepreneur in an op-ed published in the South African newspaper Mail & Guardian on July 23. Follow this link to his M&G opinion piece

In this article Mo Ibrahim went on to write: “There are two valuable lessons to be drawn from this experience. Firstly, it emphasises the importance of good governance in fighting disease. The Kick Polio Out of Africa campaign has commended the political leaders of Nigeria, and government officials in West and Central Africa, for their commitment to polio eradication, a commitment which has manifested itself in effective policies and ultimately a decrease in new infections”.

“Eradication campaigns on such a large scale require, at minimum, cooperation from governments. It is important to remember that good governance is not always about direct action from governments; it is sometimes just about allowing others to do their jobs.”

“Another important lesson is the necessity of cross-border cooperation and regional integration in fighting disease. Unfortunately, polio pays no attention to border posts or immigration officials, so countries have to work together. After a polio outbreak in northern Nigeria in 2008, the virus spread again into neighbouring countries and as far as Angola, Mauritania and Kenya.  This highlights the need for all countries have preventative vaccination policies to safeguard their population. Cooperation on such a global scale might sound far-fetched, but it has worked before – smallpox was completely eradicated in 1979 after a joint global effort.”

Friday, July 30 marks 1 year since the last polio case in the Horn of Africa, meaning that the region is once again polio-free. On 18 June, the new Global Polio Eradication Initiative Strategic Plan 2010-2012 to eradicate wild poliovirus was launched at a key stakeholder meeting in Geneva. While stakeholders fully endorsed the range of approaches and new tools in the new strategic plan – which are already showing positive results – a $1.3 billion funding gap is forcing a reprioritization of further planned activities to respond to the outbreaks in west Africa. A GPEI statement will soon be released to mark the achievement of a “Polio Free Horn of Africa” and posted on this blog for information.

In the Global Montly GPEI report of June 2010 it is recorded that as of 24 June, the DRC has been polio-free for 12 months. However, a recent cluster of cases in north-eastern Angola, close to DRC’s border, underlines the need to raise childhood immunity to protect against wild poliovirus importations. As Mo Ibrahim says – “This is not the time to relax and say ‘job done’”. We all need to keep our eye firmly on the KPOA ball until we reach our final goal!


Spanish Soccer Stars shine light on Polio in World Cup

June 30, 2010


Felicitaciones a La Roja!

Last night, Spain beat Portugal in the second round of the World Cup in Cape Town – an exhilarating and exciting match, despite rain and cold.   What a great achievement for Spain as they progress to the quarter finals.

“The match was extremely intense,” Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said in the press conference. “In the second half, we were better than Portugal. We had greater depth in our play, and we controlled the game very well. “Spain moves on to the quarterfinals for the sixth time. They have only advanced past the quarters once, and have never won football’s most prestigious award.

National Team Coach Vicente del Bosque and La Furia Roja (the Red Fury) are polio ambassadors for Rotary International’s EndPolioNow campaign, which is aligned to the Kick Polio Out of Africa campaign. A football, signed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu was “kicked-off” from Cape Town on 23 February 2010, ahead of the world cup and traveled through 23 polio-affected countries in Africa, exiting through Alexandrina. On its Pan-African journey, the football was signed by heads of  state,  health ministers, footballers and other celebrities.

The KPOA coordinating team wish both Spain and Ghana every success as they progress to a nail-biting final.

Video footage from Rotary International Convention, Montreal…

June 29, 2010

At its Montreal convention, Rotary International pledged to “Kick polio out of Africa,” and lit up historic Bonsecours Market with a gigantic illumination that read “En finir avec la polio” (End Polio Now). Please click the picture below to watch the footage:

Ghana flies flag for Africa …

June 27, 2010

Ghana, the first country to gain independence in Africa, is one of the 23-polio affected countries that participated in the Kick Polio Out of Africa campaign. Ghana is flying the flag for Africa in the next round of fixtures in the World Cup soccer event.

“The Black Stars of Ghana kept the African Dream alive with a hard fought victory over the US last night” writes Kgomotso Mokoena in the Sunday Times today.

The Kick Polio Out of Africa Campaign team congratulates Ghana on an outstanding win against the United States. May their “champion” African spirit of winning the battle against polio in their country, follow through with a victorious win in the next round of the World Cup.

Ghana, we are supporting you – all the way! Good luck.

KPOA – Mission accomplished …

June 26, 2010

Rotary’s promise to kick polio out of Africa and the world took centre stage as the football signed by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu and dignitaries from more than 20 African nations received a rousing welcome at its annual convention, which was held in Montreal, June 20 – 33.

The Kick Polio Out of Africa football was handed to RI President John Kenny at the RI Convention in Montreal on June 21, by Marie-Irene Richmond of Cote D ‘Ivoire, one of the twenty-three KPOA country coordinators that participated in the campaign.

The “kick-off”

As Hans Vonk, the Captain of Ajax Cape Town, did the “kick-off” at the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town on February 23, The Old Port Captain’s Building was illuminated, shining a light on eradicating polio. At the same time the Pyramid of Khafre, the second largest of the ancient Egyptian pyramids of Giza, provided a dramatic backdrop for an equally dramatic message: End Polio Now. These events mapped the start and finish of the campaign on the continent – from the Cape to Cairo.

The KPOA campaign mission

To send a football through 22 polio-affected countries in four months, creating awareness of the polio eradication initiative of Rotary and its global partners, spearheading the massive National Immunisation Days (NIDs) to help mobilise the vaccination of  85 million children under the age of five on the continent of Africa in March, April, May and June, 2010 ahead of the world cup. The campaign was also in response to former President Nelson Mandela’s address to the OAU when he declared: “We are calling on the continent’s football players to bring their enormous influence to this campaign. Only unified efforts which galvanise whole societies towards these goals sill succeed in kicking this virus, that looks much like a football, out of Africa, and eventually, out of the world”. Rotary and its global partners rallied to this appeal with the Ubuntu spirit of Africa.

The journey

From the Cape to Cairo – the football would travel through 22 polio-affected countries. Senegal was added later, with an additional unscheduled stop-over in Abuja, Nigeria for the Bill Gates signing. Two further stops were Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt, where the ball exited the continent after its long Pan-African journey from the southern tip of Africa. The football was then flown to Montreal.

Signing and impressions

For all those involved, it has been an exciting and unforgettable journey. Governments en route were united in their resolve to finish the task, some providing substantial funding to meet the shortfall needed. These are some of the highlights along the way …

please click HERE to view a presentation about all the stops, signatures and impressions of the ball’s journey


The challenge – that final 1%

When former President Nelson Mandela launched the Kick Polio out of Africa campaign originally in 1996, almost all countries in Africa were still suffering from polio. Today, polio eradication sits at a critical juncture. Across Africa, 10 of the 15 previously polio-free countries re-infected in 2009 have successfully stopped their outbreaks. Nowhere is progress more evident than in Nigeria — the last remaining polio endemic country on the continent – where case numbers have plummeted by 99 percent, from 312 cases at this time last year, to three cases in 2010.

In his keynote address at the Rotary Convention on June 22, Bruce Aylward, director of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative at the World Health Organization (WHO), encouraged the thousands of Rotary members in attendance to share the “terrific news” that polio is on the run, and that Rotary’s vision of a polio-free world is within sight.

“The stakes are now much higher, because in the past 12 months you have proved, without a doubt, that polio can be eradicated. The world has also learned the full consequences of failure,” said Aylward, referring to a current polio outbreak in Tajikistan which is now showing signs of stopping.

The polio eradication initiative is facing a US $1.3 billion funding shortfall over the next three years, according to WHO. Calling for support from donor countries, footballers, and fans from the 32 countries represented at the 2010 FIFA Cup, Webber said, “We need your help to raise awareness and the much needed funds to finish the job. This World Cup is not just about the game. This World Cup presents a strong image of a united Africa to the world – and the profound power of the African Ubuntu spirit.”

Beginning in 1985, when polio paralyzed more than 350,000 children in 125 countries every year, eradication has been Rotary’s top philanthropic goal.  Since then, polio cases have been slashed by 99 percent worldwide, with fewer than 1,700 cases in 2009. Just four countries remain polio-endemic: Nigeria, Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan. However, other nations remain at risk for infections “imported” from the endemic countries.

As the volunteer arm and top private sector contributor in the polio eradication initiative, Rotary has contributed more than $900 million and countless volunteer hours to immunize more than two billion children in 122 countries.

The alternative …

Failure to eradicate polio will result in an estimated 10 million paralyzed children in the next 40 years and will jeopardize the world’s US$6 billion global investment in the initiative.

Final thanks  …

It is said that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. In this case it was a single kick. We have journeyed with friends. Rotary members are embedded in their communities and are dedicated to keeping their promise to the children of the world. We know we have the technical tools to end polio and the means to reach all children. Failure is not an option …. Our goal is in sight. The eradication of polio  is achievable.

Sincere thanks to the KPOA team, DHL Express and Sandra Prufer and Petina Dixon of Rotary International.

June Webber (KPOA Campaign Coordinator)

KPOA football arrives in Montreal …

June 25, 2010

Annie Chan is seen below with International PolioPlus Chair Bob Scott at the Palais des Congres, in Montreal, ahead of the launch of the 2010 Rotary International Convention where she handed over the footballs.  Also present was Ayoub Ayoub, the coordinator for the ball’s last stop in Africa – Alexandria, Egypt. A reporter and photographer from the Montreal Gazette were present.

The following is an extract from the Montreal Gazette of June 20 : “Annie Chan unrolls a sheet of bubble wrap to uncover a worn soccer ball whose white spots are covered in black ink. A closer look reveals messages and signatures from African leaders and health officials dedicated to raising awareness about the ongoing outbreaks on the continent of polio, a disease that was eradicated from industrialized nations decades ago.
The ball is part of Rotary International’s Kick Polio Out of Africa campaign and arrived in Montreal in time for the organization’s annual convention. More than 17,000 members from at least 150 countries are attending events at the Palais des congres and the Bell Centre until Wednesday.
Polio survivor Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu was the first person to sign the ball in South Africa, which is now considered polio-free by the World Health Organization. After a four-month journey through 22 polio-affected countries, it was delivered to Chan’s office in downtown Montreal on Wednesday. Chan, president of the Rotary Club du Vieux Montreal, was chosen to be the guardian of the ball after her club raised more than $10,000 in the fight against polio this spring and the DHL messengers who delivered it emphasized that she was responsible for keeping it safe.”

The KPOA ball will be presented at the Convention to Rotary President John Kenny on Monday, 21 June in a plenary session at Centre Bell.

Global Polio Eradication Initiative Launches 2010-2012 Strategic Plan in Geneva

June 24, 2010

“The next three years, and especially the next 12 months, are critical to the polio eradication initiative and, by extension, the entire international public health agenda” says WHO Director-General Margaret Chan ….

In a recent press release it was reported that on Friday, June 18 a broad range of stakeholders would formally launch the new Strategic Plan 2010-2012 for eradicating wild poliovirus.

Polio eradication sits at a critical juncture. Across Africa, 10 of the 15 previously polio-free countries re-infected in 2009 have successfully stopped their outbreaks. Key endemic countries are witnessing historic gains against the disease. Nowhere is progress more evident than Nigeria, where case numbers have plummeted by more than 99% – from 312 cases at this time last year, to three in 2010. In India, for the first time ever, the remaining endemic states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have not reported any wild poliovirus type 1 cases concurrently for more than six months.

The meeting in Geneva was held to build on the gains already made in 2010 and to galvanize new action on polio eradication. Last month, the World Health Assembly welcomed the new plan while expressing deep concern about the US $1.3 billion funding shortfall (out of a budget of US $2.6 billion) over the next three years. This financing shortfall is a serious risk to the eradication of polio – activities are already being cut back or postponed due to a lack of funds.

The Ministers of Health of Nigeria, Afghanistan, Angola and Senegal, among a number of other senior health ministry officials, existing and potential funders, vaccine manufacturers and key partner organizations attended the meeting co-hosted by WHO Director-General Margaret Chan and the new UNICEF Executive Director Tony Lake (photographed below with a Kick Polio Out of Africa football that resides with WHO in Geneva) – to discuss the implementation, monitoring, economics and financing of the new plan.

Photo credit: WHO/Christopher Black.

Dr Margaret Chan called on the international funding community to stand tall for polio eradication. “The next three years, and especially the next 12 months, are critical to the polio eradication initiative and, by extension, the entire international public health agenda.”

The new plan builds on major lessons learnt to date, including findings from  a major independent evaluation examining the remaining barriers to eradication.  It introduces district- and area-specific strategies to target the ever-shrinking remaining reservoirs of poliovirus, exploits the game-changing bivalent oral polio vaccine to increase the impact of immunizations, and tackles health system weaknesses. The success of this plan now hinges on implementation of activities at field level and the provision of adequate financing.

Partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative are examining every possible option to seek fresh funding while managing existing cash flow to limit any threat to the immunization plan. The risk of not stopping polio in endemic countries was made clear when a large type-1 outbreak originally from India spread to Tajikistan early in 2010 where, to date, it has paralysed 239 children. Tajikistan had been polio-free since 1997. This highlights the urgency of capitalizing on recent gains made in the polio-endemic countries.

“Polio eradication remains an urgent priority for our foundation,” said Tachi Yamada, president of global health at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  “We call on donor governments to also prioritize polio as we seek to eliminate these last, most difficult cases.”

“The complete eradication of polio is an absolute goal and it requires absolute commitment from us all,” said UNICEF Executive Director Tony Lake.

“Rotary believes the new Strategic Plan provides the blueprint to achieving the goal of polio eradication,” said Carl-Wilhelm Stenhammar, 2010-11 Chair, The Rotary Foundation. When Rotary initially launched the effort in 1985, 1000 children were being paralyzed daily by polio across 125 countries each year. Rotary has since contributed more than US $900 million in that time, and the incidence of polio has fallen by more than 99%.

We hope this will send a strong message to the G8 summit in Ontario June 25-26 and G20 summit in Toronto June 26 – 27.

The power of the African spirit of Ubuntu…

June 21, 2010

“In Africa there is a concept known as Ubuntu – the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others, that if we accomplish anything in this world, it will in equal measure be due to the work and accomplishment of others”. This preface was written by Nelson Mandela in the book Mandela’s Way – Lessons on Life by Richard Stengel. It is a profoundly inspiring book which captures the spirit of this extraordinary man – warrior, martyr, husband, statesman and moral leader. We long for heroes, but have too few. Nelson Mandela is perhaps the last pure hero on the planet.

In 1996 Nelson Mandela called on African footballers to help mobilize the public and serve as campaign ambassadors to “Kick Polio Out of Africa”. Football is a team sport – a unifying global force, much like the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) which has so many players. Rotary and its global partners need footballers from the 32 countries represented at the 2010 FIFA World Cup to help raise awareness and the much needed funds to finish the job. This world cup is not just about the game. This world cup presents a strong image of a united Africa to the world – and the profound power of the African Ubuntu spirit.

The  journey of the football totalled 26 deliveries through 23 polio-affected countries (with an additional stop to Nigeria), exiting through Cairo on June 12, then to Montreal. A final photograph (left) of the DHL  support team and KPOA coordinator June Webber at the exit event.

On June 16, 2010 DHL delivered not one, but two balls to Montreal Rotarian Annie Chan who then became the custodian of the precious cargo. The other ball was the back-up ball used in Cairo. The original was jam-packed with signatures – so many wanted to sign the ball as it left the continent of Africa.

Sign the ball and help kick polio out of Africa…

June 15, 2010

Another inspiring video about the journey of the symbolic soccer ball. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, countless heads of states and Microsoft founder Bill Gates have signed the ball – please go to and put your signature on the ball as well!

The great finale in Alexandria on video…

June 15, 2010

The incredible journey of the ball came to an end for its African campaign. But the ball will not rest, it has been sent off to Montreal, Canada to be part of the Rotary International Convention. Please watch the video below for footage of the spectacular finale in Alexandria, Egypt.