By Barbara E. Walters 
Rotary International News - 6 November 2007 


In Tanzania, villagers buy mosquito nets through a Rotarian-supported program that aligns with the United Nations' goal to reduce malaria. In Kenya, families build Rotarian-funded rainwater collection tanks, complementing UN efforts to prevent deaths, especially among children, linked to poor sanitation.  In Romania, farmers receive heifers through an effort backed by a Rotary Foundation grant that goes hand in hand with the UN goal to fight hunger.

These stories were highlighted during Rotary-UN Day at UN headquarters in New York City as ways Rotarians are helping the United Nations advance its goals to improve lives around the world. Held annually, the occasion celebrated the organizations' 62-year partnership. More than 1,300 Rotarians, UN officials, Interactors, and Rotaractors from 48 countries attended the day of panel discussions on water, literacy, health, and hunger on 3 November.

Rotary's relationship with the UN dates back to 1945, when 49 Rotarians acted as delegates, advisers, and consultants at the conference that founded the global association of governments. Today, Rotary holds the highest consultative status offered to any nongovernmental organization by the Economic and Social Council, which oversees many specialized UN agencies.

"Ever since the United Nations was founded, you have been a wonderful partner to our organization," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said to Rotarians in remarks delivered by Kim Won-soo, deputy chef de cabinet and special adviser. "You have worked with the UN for health, literacy, and poverty eradication. You have promoted peace through your exchange programs. You have helped people understand what the UN is, what it does, and what it can do."

Ban and KiyotakaAkasaka, UN undersecretary-general for communications and public information, praised Rotary for working on the UN Millennium Development Goals, which aim to slash poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, and other social ills by 2015. But more work is needed, Akasaka said.

"It is intolerable that 72 million children are not in primary school. Maternal health remains a scandal, and HIV is growing faster than treatments can be made available," he explained, adding that climate change threatens to undermine work toward all the goals. 

Progress is being made, though, according to speakers featured throughout the day. Stephen Nicholas, a member of the Rotary Club of Yonkers, New York, and a professor at Columbia University Medical Center's Department of Pediatrics, said better, cheaper medication and intervention during pregnancy has almost completely diminished the number of HIV-infected infants at the clinic he founded in New York City's Harlem neighborhood. Nicholas has also helped develop a family AIDS program in the Dominican Republic. Now a World Community Service project, it aims to reduce the rate of mother-to-child HIV transmissions and the number of AIDS orphans.

During a panel discussion on water, John Boot, of the Rotary Club of Summerland, British Columbia, Canada, described how Kenyan villagers have built 12,000 concrete water tanks and planted hundreds of trees as a natural purifier.

In a health panel, Brian Stoyel, of the Rotary Club of Saltash, Cornwall, England, said posters encouraging Tanzanians to buy mosquito netting below cost have reduced malaria by 64 percent in targeted areas. Two billion additional nets are still needed in East Africa, however, said MelanieRenshaw, UNICEF senior health adviser.

The event also featured a presentation by Rotary Peace and Conflict Studies Program graduate Richelieu Allison, of Liberia, who received the day's only standing ovation. "Rotary has become a passer of the light," Allison said. "The Four-Way Test has transformed my life. It can transform the world."

Click here to read more on the United Nations' Web site.