Australians call on Government to renew support for polio eradication

Community leaders will meet at Parliament House to mark World Polio Day and call on the Turnbull Government to renew its support for the eradication of polio.

Community leaders will come together on Tuesday 20 October at Parliament House in Canberra to issue a strong call to action to the Turnbull Government.

The event, co-hosted by the Global Poverty Project and RESULTS Australia, will bring together prominent Australians, including former Young Australian of the Year Akram Azimi, President- nominee of Rotary International Ian Riseley and Director and CEO of Burnet Institute, Professor Brendan Crabb AC.

This year, the world has made incredible progress in working towards a polio free world. Nigeria recently achieved a significant milestone – a whole year without a single reported case of polio. Just two countries – Pakistan and Afghanistan – remain polio endemic. Globally, in 2015, reported polio cases have dropped by two-thirds compared to this time last year.

Despite such progress, eradication cannot be taken for granted – as seen through previous setbacks, achieving eradication will require every country, including Australia, to play a role. Yet, in recent weeks the Government announced that it will be reducing its funding for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative – the partnership that leads eradication efforts worldwide – by 25% this year.

“Australia has been a key country in the effort to eradicate polio, but it must follow through on its financial and political commitments to finish the job,” Michael Sheldrick, Head of Global Policy and Advocacy, Global Poverty Project said.

The special event will also pay homage to Australian Rotarian, Sir Clem Renouf, who as President of Rotary International in 1979 helped launch the global eradication effort.

“Rotary is enormously proud to have led the charge against polio from the very start of this campaign over 30 years ago,” Ian Riseley, president-nominee of Rotary International, an organization with 30,000 members in over 1,000 clubs in Australia, said.

“We are deeply concerned by the apparent reduction in Australia’s support. Every penny of Australia’s current commitment – and more – is needed to ensure we achieve the goal of a polio free world.”

Ensuring polio eradication programs are fully funded is critical to ending polio as quickly as possible and ensuring future generations of children are free of this devastating disease.

“The eradication of the scourge of smallpox is probably mankind’s greatest ever technical achievement. It remains the only human disease ever eliminated from the planet. We are now on the verge of doing the same with polio, a terrible disease that only a generation or two ago dogged tens of millions people around the world, including many thousands here in Australia. The health and economic gains of eradication are gigantic; once achieved not a single case will be seen, nor a dollar spent – ever. The world must not let this golden opportunity slip, and Australia must continue to pull its weight,” Professor Brendan Crabb AC, Director and CEO, Burnet Institute said.

The organisers of Tuesday’s event are asking Prime Minister Turnbull to participate in a special high-level meeting on polio eradication during next month’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Malta. Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has publicly confirmed he will seek a renewal in global commitment for polio eradication efforts at CHOGM.

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[For media enquires please contact:] Liesel Maddock | liesel.maddock@globalpovertyproject.com | 0417 035 654

Camilla Ryberg | camilla.ryberg@results.org.au | 0435 182 567