Address by Minister Paradis : Polio Recognition Event

April 8, 2014 – Ottawa, Ontario

Check Against Delivery

Good evening.

Thanks for joining us everyone.

My thanks to the Aga Khan Foundation Canada for hosting this reception.

And to UNICEF for the great photo exhibit of Canadian-funded polio eradication efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The work being done is truly amazing to see.

I think all of us here can relate to the threat of polio in some way.

Either as parents with children of our own.

Or as those who remember when Canadians also feared this deadly disease.

That threat has been gone from Canada for many years.

But it persisted in other countries around the world.

All children, regardless of where they live, deserve a future with hope and optimism.

And that is what drives the global effort to eradicate polio once and for all.

Our Government is committed to eradicating polio around the world.

To do so we must work together.

We must buy polio vaccines and deliver them to children in outbreak areas.

And we must raise awareness and community acceptance of the usefulness of the vaccine.

This can be done by integrating immunization directly into national health systems.

Most importantly we must finish the job as quickly as possible.

Through Canada’s Muskoka Initiative we are ensuring that every last child is reached.

That is one of the many reasons why Prime Minister Harper is hosting the Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Summit this spring.

Maternal and child health is Canada’s leading development priority.

Before Prime Minister Harper drew the world’s attention to this crucial issue, we were falling short on reducing child mortality and curbing maternal death.

Thanks to the Muskoka Initiative, and subsequent global action, maternal mortality rates are declining.

And millions more children are celebrating their fifth birthday.

Our common goal has not yet been reached.

But it is within arm’s reach.

Together we can eliminate preventable deaths among women, children and newborns.

And we can save the millions of lives that hang in the balance.

Canadians proud to be a part of the global effort to end polio.

We are making great progress around the world with our partners.

As you know, polio cases have decreased by more than 99 percent over the past two decades.

Today, the disease remains endemic only in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.

And even there the numbers are at an all-time low.

The end of this terrible disease is in sight.

And Canada applauds all those who have helped the world come this far.

In particular I want to acknowledge the extraordinary partnership between Canada and Rotary International, WHO and UNICEF.

All of whom have been leaders in polio eradication.

Canada was the first country to donate to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988.

And in the 25 years since, we have continued to offer generous support.

Canada has been the single-largest donor to polio eradication in Afghanistan.

Our support has helped vaccinate more than 12 million Afghan children.

At the Global Vaccine Summit, Canada pledged $250 million over the next six years toward polio eradication.

And in the year since, we have disbursed over $100 million of this commitment.

However, we can’t afford to become complacent.

Especially not this close to the finish line.

We need to stamp out every last case of polio.

There have been increases in the number of polio cases in Pakistan.

And new outbreaks in the Horn of Africa, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Syria.

These represent the greatest risks to eradication.

And that is why, today, I am proud to announce Canada is committing an additional $2 million to fight polio in East Africa and the Horn of Africa.

This will be used by the World Health Organization to increase surveillance and access to immunization.

In addition, Canadians contributing $1 million to help UNICEF fight polio in Somalia.

This project will help buy polio vaccines and deliver it to children in outbreak areas.

As long as there are cases of polio on the planet the entire population needs to be immunized.

And that means providing hundreds of millions of vaccine doses every year until eradication is achieved.

Despite being so close to a historic end to the disease, the challenges that remain are not easy.

The majority of polio cases are in remote and difficult-to-reach areas.

And polio eradication workers continue to face incredible danger as they risk their lives to keep children from contracting the disease.

Vaccines are among the most cost-effective investments in global heath, saving about 2.5 million lives each year.

But the fact remains that a child dies from a vaccine-preventable disease every 20 seconds.

This is a big challenge.

But I cannot imagine better partners to have at our side as we tackle it.

I congratulate you all on your remarkable progress to date.

We continue to count on you to do all that can be done to reach the goal of polio eradication.

And you can continue to count our Government as a strong partner going forward.

Thank you.