Global Polio Eradication Initiative - Ministerial meeting and the Final Push toward a Polio-Free World

Signing of the Geneva Declaration for a Polio-Free World

Geneva, Switzerland
15 January 2004

Honourable Ministers, ladies and gentlemen,

We have a one-time opportunity to achieve a historic success.

After a fifteen-year effort, involving more than two hundred countries, twenty million volunteers and an international investment of three billion dollars, the success of polio eradication depends on the decisions you have made today - and the actions you take when you return to your countries.

From my first-hand experience of polio eradication, I know that we have the vaccines and the strategies to finish the job. It will be a great day in the lives of all of us here - and millions of others around the world - when we can announce that polio has been eradicated globally.

The bold plans you have made today involve multiple immunization of 250 million children in the coming months. This means an extraordinary scale of activity in your countries, and around the world, to support it.

However, the risks too are unprecedented. Today's 677 cases could quickly explode again into hundreds of thousands of cases a year, if we do not maintain our vigilance.

Ridding the world of polio is WHO's primary target for 2004, just as it is for you and the health and political authorities in your countries. The immunization campaigns planned for next month can be nothing short of top quality. In fact, the next six months will be pivotal. Everyone, from the village chiefs and district administrators to state governors and federal ministers, has a vital role to play in ensuring every child a polio-free future.

In the coming months, I will be visiting you on the front lines, first in Kano, in Nigeria, where we look forward to giving your work WHO's full support.

To reach every child, WHO, UNICEF, CDC - and Rotary International with its 1.2 million volunteers around the world - will further strengthen our technical, financial and moral support for your efforts. I will immediately inform our donors that they must match your commitment and ensure that you have the money you need to finish the job. I will meet with you again during the World Health Assembly, when we can review our progress and fine tune our efforts.

We have reached the point now where both the risks and the potential rewards are unprecedented. We have this one chance to rid the world of polio.

Let us seize the opportunity.