A virtual ball was today launched to help kick polio out of Africa and eventually out of the world. The on-line ball brings heightened awareness to the mass immunizations this spring targeting more than 100 million children throughout Africa with the goal of kicking polio out of the continent.
With a few simple clicks of a mouse, one can sign the ball at www.kickpoliooutofafrica.org and join the global movement of solidarity to save African children and all children — from this crippling and sometimes deadly disease. Visitors to the website will sign the virtual version of a soccer ball that is currently traveling through 22 polio-affected and high-risk countries in Africa, with Rotary clubs raising awareness for polio eradication. The signatures will be formally presented to the spearheading partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative after the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
“We are calling on the continent’s football players to bring their enormous influence to this campaign.
Only unified efforts which galvanise whole societies towards these goals will succeed in kicking this virus, that looks so much like a football, out of Africa and eventually, out of the world,” declared former South African President Nelson Mandela, in his 1996 address at the Organization for African Unity Summit as he formally kicked off the “Kick Polio out of Africa” campaign.
Since Rotary and its partners began their fight against polio in 1988, the incidence of the disease has been reduced by 99 percent. In Africa, only Nigeria remains polio-endemic, but the disease still affects children in many other high-risk countries, emphasizing the importance of protecting all African children from polio.
“Rotary and its global partners are on the brink of eradicating this life threatening, cruel disease, but as long as there is one case of polio, no child will be safe.
A final push is needed to stop polio in its tracks, especially in Africa,” said June Webber, Rotary’s South African campaign organizer. “As we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, Rotarians and our global partners are determined to provide Madiba (Mandela’s Xhosa title) with a lasting legacy.”
On 23 February, Rotary launched its “Kick Polio out of Africa” awareness campaign with the symbolic kicking of a ball signed by Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Afflicted with polio as a child, Tutu joined the campaign as goodwill ambassador.
From Cape Town, one of the host cities to the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the ball is traveling through 22 polio-affected countries to Egypt, en route to the Rotary International Convention in Montréal, Canada, in June.
The journey is being underwritten by DHL Express.
In April, the campaign received a further boost from Nigerian national football team captain Nwankwo Kanu, who plays in the English premier-league club Portsmouth F.C., announcing that he had two goals for 2010:
Kanu wants Nigeria to shine at the upcoming World Cup and also wants to eradicate polio from Africa.