Martina Hingis and Rotary Clubs of Switzerland
Team up to Fight Polio in Somalia
help further the eradication of polio in war-torn Somalia, Martina
Hingis, number one ranked women’s tennis player, and Rotary clubs in
Switzerland today announced their donations to the World Health
Organization (WHO) to supply much needed surveillance equipment,
training and transportation for health workers.
In presenting a cheque of US$ 200 000 to WHO during
the SwissCom Challenge tennis tournament in Kloten, Switzerland on
behalf of the Rotary clubs of Switzerland, Dr Heinrich Walti, past
Rotary District Governor said, "Some local doctors have nothing
but a table, a telephone and a stethoscope in their practice. To
successfully eradicate polio globally, we must reach every child in
the most remote and dangerous areas of the world. That means
laboratories need to be adequately equipped to track the poliovirus,
and reliable transportation and training for health workers are
Five-time Grand Slam winner and WHO Goodwill
Ambassador for polio eradication, Ms Martina Hingis presented a cheque
for US$ 35 000. As part of a public awareness campaign called
"Match Point Against Polio", Ms Hingis is raising funds,
public awareness and participation to eradicate the disease.
"Polio is preventable. Children should no
longer be paralysed by this terrible disease. I hope that my continued
support will bring us one step closer to eradicating polio for
good," Ms Hingis said.
As part of her campaign at the SwissCom Challenge,
Ms Hingis also gave a special tennis clinic to 18 children and
educated them about the crippling disease. Currently, polio is endemic
in 30 countries, many of which are ravaged by conflict and are amongst
the poorest in the world. Once the world is certified polio-free, the
annual savings are estimated to be US$ 1.5 billion — resources which
can be redirected to other public health initiatives.
Accepting the donations on behalf of WHO, Chris
Maher, Scientist, Global Polio Eradication Initiative, said, "One
of the key challenges to achieving polio eradication by 2005 is a US$
450 million funding shortfall. We must focus the world’s attention
to finish the job. Tonight Martina and the Rotary clubs of Switzerland
have brought us closer to this goal."
Rotary International is one of the world’s
largest volunteer service organizations with 1.2 million members in
163 countries. In joining the ceremony, Rotary International Director
Mr Mario Grassi said, "The
PolioPlus Program is the most ambitious programme in Rotary's history.
The initiative is an aggressive public/private partnership to assist
international health agencies and governments to certify the world as
polio-free by the year 2005, Rotary’s centennial anniversary. To
date, Rotary has contributed US$ 378 million to the protection of
nearly two billion children."
By 2005, Rotary's financial commitment will reach
US$ 500 million. In addition, thousands of Rotary volunteers assist in
vaccine delivery, social mobilization and logistical help.
Swiss Rotary clubs have adopted Somalia as a
priority. To date, approximately 100 clubs have participated in
fundraising and volunteer activities to support polio eradication
efforts in that country.
The international polio eradication effort,
launched in 1988, is spearheaded by WHO, Rotary International, the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United
Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
This coalition also includes national governments;
private foundations (e.g. United Nations Foundation, Bill &
Melinda Gates Foundation); development banks (e.g. World Bank); donor
governments (e.g. Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland,
Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal, United Kingdom and
United States of America); humanitarian organizations (e.g. the
International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement) and corporate
partners (e.g. Aventis Pasteur, De Beers). Volunteers in developing
countries also play a key role; ten million have participated in mass
For further information:
Beat Ritschard, Octagon, Tel.: (+41 1)738 9000, firstname.lastname@example.org;
Vivian Fiore, Rotary International, Tel.: (+1 847) 866 3234, email@example.com
; Erich Gerber, Rotary Club Zurich-Limmattal, Tel.: (+41 1) 322
; Claudia Drake, WHO in Geneva, Tel.: (+41 22) 791 3832, Mobile:
(+41 78) 773 8077 firstname.lastname@example.org
; or Melinda Henry, WHO in Geneva, Tel.: (+ 41 22) 791 2535, email@example.com .
- Journalists can contact David Schwab, Octagon, Tel.: (+1 703)
905 3363, Mobile: (+1 703) 980 1983
- Broadcast quality audio clips by Martina Hingis can be
- B-roll of polio national immunization days in Angola, Ghana,
India, Sudan and Somalia is available through Rotary
International. For more information on Rotary International’s
PolioPlus program, see
- All WHO Press Releases, Fact Sheets, Features and other
information on the subject can be obtained on the Internet on the
WHO web site: www.who.int