By Vukoni Lupa-Lasaga
Rotary International News
Photo courtesy of the Department of the Taoiseach

10 October 2006

Rotary International has honored Bertie Ahern, prime minister of Ireland, with the Polio Eradication Champion Award in recognition of his country's outstanding financial contribution to polio eradication.

The award, presented on 3 October by Robert S. Scott, Rotary Foundation trustee and International PolioPlus Committee chair, was established in 1995 to honor government and world leaders who have made outstanding contributions toward eradicating polio.

"Until polio is eradicated worldwide, no child is safe from this crippling and potentially fatal disease," said Scott. "On behalf of Rotary's 1.2 million members worldwide and the millions of children who will be protected against this disease, I am honored to recognize the government of Ireland, under the leadership of An Taoiseach [Prime Minister] Bertie Ahern, for its continued support of a polio-free world."

The government of Ireland has contributed ⧬12.88 million (US$16.5 million), including a recent three-year commitment of ⧬9 million ($11.5 million).

"The polio eradication initiative has been a worldwide success, and there is now a real prospect that the world will soon be free from this debilitating disease," said Ahern. "The major obstacle to this achievement is funding, and Ireland is delighted to be able to respond in this regard. The final push to eliminate polio worldwide is fully deserving of our support, and this has now been secured with ⧬9 million committed by the government from 2006 to 2008."

In addition to Ireland's public sector, the country's 1,600 Rotarians have contributed nearly ⧬780,000 ($1 million) to polio eradication.

Past recipients of the award include former U.S. President Bill Clinton, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and Egypt's first lady, Suzanne Mubarak.

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