New York – This extraordinary gathering shows our collective will to eradicate polio. We have in this room the leaders of the remaining polio endemic countries and the partners who are going to help end this disease once and for all.
I am especially grateful to the Rotarians and Rotary International.
They launched PolioPlus in 1985, when people suffered from polio in more than 125 countries. Every day, at least a thousand children were paralyzed by the disease. Since then, Rotary International joined forces with the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to lead the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
That brought us to this decisive moment.
We have come this far thanks also to the millions of dedicated health workers working on the frontlines.
I have made eradicating polio a top priority for my second term as Secretary-General. We also committed to tackling malaria, new paediatric HIV infections, maternal and neonatal tetanus, drastically reducing deaths from measles and implementing the global strategy for women’s and children’s health. I have made it publicly know in January this year that during my second term as Secretary-General I will wipe off these five major killers, including polio, so I have to keep my word.
This is a matter of health and justice. Every child should have the right to start life with equal protection from these diseases.
When children are protected from polio, they are better protected against all diseases.
To deliver global results, we need global solidarity. That is why I have put the strength of the entire United Nations system behind polio eradication.
I was in India earlier this year where we celebrated the fact that it had been polio-free for a year. We travelled there with the Director-General of the WHO, Margaret Chan. Normally, the Secretary-General or heads of specialized agencies do not travel together. But because Margaret Chan – she herself is a star – when we travel together, that means that we are very much committed. We really wanted to raise awareness and importance and I really want to thank [her] for her leadership. I wanted, really, to shine a spotlight on India’s success to give hope to the world that polio can be eradicated even under the toughest conditions.
Globally, we have the lowest number of cases reported this year. The prospects for eradicating polio are good – but everything hinges on stopping polio in a few districts in Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The quality of our efforts in these few districts will determine the success or failure across the world.
Your Excellencies, Heads of States and Government, I thank you for leading the polio eradication efforts in your countries. I know that you are mobilizing all sectors in your government and societies to vaccinate every last child. I am deeply grateful for your strong leadership. As you know, the engagement of the state, provincial and district governments is critical for success.
I will follow your progress closely, and I look forward to working with you, through both my office and the United Nations agencies who support you.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Just as the entire world will benefit from polio eradication, the world must now stand shoulder to shoulder with Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan to finish the job. We have a shared responsibility.
I thank the international community for its generous financial support over the years. We have reduced polio by 99% worldwide. I call on you to provide the urgent funding needed to carry out polio emergency plans.
We all realize that success will not happen overnight. That is why the Global Polio Eradication Initiative long-term strategy is so critical to achieving total eradication.
We need all government officials on board, but we also need the support of religious and traditional leaders, youth and women’s groups and other members of local communities.
Where there is fighting and insecurity, we need warring parties to allow aid workers to operate. I appeal to all parties to provide safe passage for health workers to access and vaccinate children.
We need the commitment of the global community – each one of you in this room and our partners around the world – to keep this promise to the world’s children.
One day, when polio is eradicated, I want everyone in this room to remember that we were here today and that we made the right commitments and we took the right action at the right time to leave a polio-free world to future generations.
I thank you very much, and I thank you for your commitment.