SOURCE: Rotary International
Actress Archie Panjabi signs on with Rotary to eradicate polio
And her involvement extends beyond simply lending her name and celebrity to a cause – she has witnessed the devastation caused by polio.
"I grew up in London and at the age of 10, I moved to Mumbai for 2 years," said Panjabi. "One of the things that struck me on my daily walk to school was seeing polio survivors crawling on the streets using just their hands."
There is no cure for polio, but the disease is vaccine-preventable. In March, the Emmy Award-winner took to the streets of New Delhi, India, with a team of Rotary volunteers to immunize children with the oral polio vaccine and visit with young polio patients at a local hospital. She says it was a life-changing experience.
"I visited a health clinic, where I met parents who brought their babies, siblings who brought their little brothers and sisters – all to receive the oral polio vaccine," said Panjabi. "I myself placed drops of vaccine into a child's mouth, and I was so moved… knowing that this child was now safe from this devastating disease forever."
On April 24-25, Panjabi served as program emcee for The Global Vaccine Summit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, where she spent time as a child. The Summit was co-hosted by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; and Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince, His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
The summit brought together health experts, policy-makers and other stakeholders from government agencies, the private sector and civil society to stress the importance of providing universal access to life-saving vaccines to children everywhere. During the event, global leaders and philanthropists signaled their confidence in a new polio endgame strategy by pledging close to three-quarters of the plan's projected US$5.5 billion cost to eradicate polio within six years.
Panjabi's involvement in the fight against polio began in 2011, when she signed on as a celebrity ambassador in Rotary's award-winning "This Close" public awareness campaign, with the catch phrase "We Are This Close to Ending Polio." Other Rotary Ambassadors for polio eradication include Gates, Queen Noor of Jordan, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, actress Amanda Peet, actor Jackie Chan, classical violinist Itzhak Perlman, and golf legend Jack Nicklaus. More than 19,000 people from 144 countries have added their support to the digital application of the PSA, called the "World's Biggest Commercial."
In September 2012, Panjabi emceed the polio segment of the Global Citizen Festival concert in New York City's Central Park – headlined by Foo Fighters, The Black Keys and Neil Young with Crazy Horse – reaching millions of television and online viewers with Rotary's polio eradication message.
Rotary is a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, along with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Launched in 1988, the initiative also now receives major support from the Gates Foundation. Since 1988, polio cases have dropped dramatically, from more than 350,000 a year to just 223 cases in 2012. Cases this year number at only 26 – an all-time low – providing the best opportunity ever to make history by ending polio once and for all. Among human diseases, only one, smallpox, has been completely eradicated.
Polio today remains endemic in only three countries: Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan. India, once expected to be the last country to beat polio, was removed from the endemic list in 2012 and will be declared polio-free if it reaches January 2014 with no new cases. This makes Panjabi particularly proud.
"Seeing India become polio-free is tremendous, and I am committed to making sure that no other child anywhere suffers from polio again," said Panjabi.
Rotary is a global humanitarian organization with more than 1.2 million members in 34,000 Rotary clubs in over 200 countries and geographical areas. Rotary members are men and women who are business, professional and community leaders with a shared commitment to make the world a better place through humanitarian service.
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For additional information, visit endpolionow.org.