indeed a pleasure to be here for Rotary International UN Day - an occasion that
gives us cause to Celebrate Rotary and the excellent relationship we share with
the United Nations.
As most of
you are aware, this year we are proud to Celebrate Rotary because of our
upcoming Centennial Anniversary. There are few organizations that last 100 years
- and the fact that Rotary has reached this important milestone is a sign that
the world is in great need of what Rotary has to offer - service, fellowship,
world understanding and peace. But in addition to being the 100th anniversary of
Rotary, 2005 also marks the 50th anniversary of the UN Charter Conference, a
delegation that included 49 Rotarians. In the 50 years since that charter
conference, Rotarians have worked closely with the UN and its many agencies to
alleviate hunger, provide clean water and sanitation, and fight disease.
course, Rotary has worked closely with UN agencies to wipe out polio worldwide.
race to reach the last child and eradicate this disease once and for all, we are
facing tremendous obstacles. But by working with our partners -•- the World
Health Organization, UNICEF, the CDC and governments throughout the world we are
getting past those obstacles.
must also take heed of this sobering fact:
we let down our guard, polio cases spike. We saw this in 2002 in India. A few
more than 1500 cases were reported and it was no coincidence that these cases
were in a part of India that had not been covered by the most recent National
come so far and we have accomplished so much -•- we must not lose our resolve in
these final months. And part of that resolve is to stay in constant
communication with our PolioPlus partners and with governments and
non-governmental organizations throughout the world.
month, it was my honor to represent Rotary at the Polio Summit in India. It was
inspiring to be there - because even though polio is not yet fully eradicated in
India, the story of the polio eradication in India is a success story.
Remarkable progress has been made in the fight against polio there- thanks to
the high level of cooperation and commitment from the PolioPlus partners, the
Indian government, the Ministry of Health and the Indian Rotarians.
am in India, I am reminded of the time I was, there in 1998 - when it was my
privilege to serve as volunteer for a massive National Immunization Day. I was
in Chandigarh - just one of the 100,000 volunteers who participated in the
historic event to immunize 134 million children throughout India. Rotarians,
Rotaractors, Interactors, health care workers, spouses, friends - there were
more than enough volunteers to fill a football stadium, if we had gathered in
images from that day that still stand out in my mind - images of children who
came to us with babies in their arms - their younger siblings. I remember how
carefully the big brothers and sisters watched the entire process - they wanted
to be absolutely certain that those two precious drops of vaccine went into the
mouths of their infant siblings. Even though they were only eleven or twelve
years old - they knew all about the devastation that polio brings. Some of them
had family or friends who had been stricken by the disease. Nearly all of them
had, at one time or another, seen a polio survivor – with withered limbs, unable
to stand or walk.
proud to be a Rotarian that day and I was proud to be part of a partnership that
had reduced the world's polio cases by 99 percent.
But as we
know, the last one percent represents the greatest challenge. We are all aware
of the dire situation in Nigeria. So far this year there have been more than 500
polio cases there. And because the wild polio virus can jump borders and travel
across continents, twelve African countries are now reinfected - countries where
the transmission of the polio virus had been successfully interrupted. Africa
was threatened by a full-fledged polio epidemic - thousands of children are at
risk. Under Secretary General Carol Bellamy of UNICEF, in my office Monday this
week said, "We have a real chance still to stop polio during this 100th
anniversary of Rotary."
tremendous hope that the situation can be brought under control. Intense efforts
to resume immunizations in Nigeria were successful - and last month, more than
80 million African children were immunized during a series of synchronized
National Immunization Days. 23 countries across west and Central Africa
participated in these recent NI DS - including war-ravaged Sudan.
yet another great milestone in our ongoing campaign to rid the world of polio -
one that brings us closer to our goal. But until we reach that last child, we
are not done.
is an inspiring look at what we can achieve through partnerships. When
like-minded organizations work together, no goal is too ambitious.
as we work to eradicate polio – we know that there is much work to be done in
other areas, too. Here at the United Nations, I was told that:
million people have the HIV Virus and this number is growing at a phenomenal
rate each day.
Malaria is a major problem throughout the developing Hung developing world.
Hunger is a significant issue in many parts of the world.
Avoidable blindness is an effective program – but the need in this area is
so great that we could be doing even more.
Population development is a concern to many people e in our world and in our
Diabetes affects large numbers of people – and that number is growing.
two billion people in this world cannot read.
Programs Director for UNICEF told me that 1.2 billion people in this world do
not have safe, clean water to drink. It was reported that 6,000 people die every
day for the lack of clean water and proper sanitation and most of them are
children. Scientists at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tell
me that the vast majority of infectious diseases are transmitted through unclean
water – including polio since poor sanitation is often a factor in polio
developed countries, the problems are different though no less critical.
Pollution, the lack of awareness about the importance of conservation, and poor
irrigation practices put precious water resources at risk all over the world.
Access to safe water is a growing concern - in fact, it is said that water could
eventually' be more valuable than gold. I believe that in our second century of
service, Rotarians will be developing more and more partnerships with UN
agencies and other organizations to improve water safety and access throughout
our world. I was in Paris in mid-October and met with the Director General and
members of the senior staff at UNESCO. Water is of major concern at UNESCO.
As we look
forward to Rotary's future - it is appropriate to reflect upon our achievements
– but not to simply congratulate ourselves for a job well done. Instead, we must
draw inspiration from past success to help us achieve the goals of a new century
So let us
Celebrate Rotary through countless acts of service to bring water to the
thirsty, to heal the sick, to feed the hungry and to educate the illiterate.
Celebrate Rotary by working toward our goal of a polio-free world.
Celebrate Rotary by strengthening our existing partnerships with the United
Nations – and seeking opportunities to forge new alliances in our second century
Estess, President 2004-2005
International UN Day