International Development Secretary Alok Sharma has hailed the efforts of British polio survivors, campaigners and fundraisers to rid the world of the disease at an event to mark World Polio Day (Thursday 24 October).
His words, praising their commitment to date, but warning of the need for a final push to end the disease for good, were carried widely in print and broadcast media.
The International Development Secretary said at the event organised by the Rotary Club in central London:
Meeting with British people from across the country passionate about the fight against polio was a really uplifting moment. It was an honour to meet British polio survivors who have not only overcome adversity to succeed, but are now campaigning tirelessly to end the disease around the world.
We have made tremendous progress to fight the disease, and members of the Rotary Club here today have been pivotal in this, raising almost $2 billion globally since efforts began.
The UK is the second largest government donor in the fight against polio globally, and this is something I am incredibly proud of. We need to continue this vital work to immunise children, both around the world and in the UK, to keep polio at bay.
If we were to pull back on immunisations, in a decade we could see 200,000 new cases each year, which would be a tragedy for the children and the families affected, but also the world.
The Telegraph reported that “two of the three forms of the virus have been now been wiped out, with type three poliovirus officially declared eradicated by the World Health Organization today, to coincide with World Polio Day”.
The feature included an interview with Andy Gilliland from Liverpool, who contracted the disease when he was four, as well as words from the Secretary of State outlining the UK’s commitment to the “fight against polio”.
The Telegraph, who interviewed Mr Sharma quoted him as saying: “I think the key thing that people have to recognise is that immunisation must continue. It’s not a question of, having eradicated polio across large parts of the world, we stop vaccination [campaigns].”
He added: “The UK is committed to the fight against polio. If [the world] were to stop the work that is going on in the fight against polio, within a decade we would have around 200,000 cases a year, which would be a huge step backwards.”
The Evening Standard reported how the Secretary of State thanked Rotary Club’s London members for making an outstanding contribution towards the campaign to rid the world of polio.
It added the number of people contracting the disease around the world has been reduced by over 99.9 percent since the launch of the Rotary International campaign to end polio.
BBC Northern Ireland’s 1830 bulletin on World Polio Day featured an interview with polio survivor Jim Bailey, who travelled to Pakistan, one of just three countries in the world, alongside Afghanistan and Nigeria, which are yet to declare themselves officially free of wild polio.
He said: “Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be in Pakistan witnessing the elimination of polio. It's brilliant, but we do need to give it one last push to get it eliminated for good.”
ITV Granada interviewed the International Development Secretary and Andy, the polio survivor from Liverpool, who talked about the importance of maintaining momentum to end polio around the world.
The Rotary Magazine wrote that at the event, Alok Sharma had “insisted that without the intervention of Rotary International, the world would not be so close to wiping polio off the face of the earth”, noting the $2 billion which Rotary International has raised towards the campaign since 1985.
Regional newspapers the Dudley News and Droitwich Advertiser wrote about Paul Robinson, a survivor from Dudley in the West Midlands who contracted polio as a baby in 1961 aged just ten months. The International Development Secretary personally thanked Paul for his work to fight the disease.