UN Foundation Intern Visits the Hill
June 8, 2012 BY Jonathan Rice
Standing in the packed hearing room on Capitol Hill this past Wednesday, the message could not be clearer:
We are at the most critical time in human history for global polio eradication.
As an intern with the United Nations Foundation, this was the first time I had ever been to a Capitol Hill briefing. The briefing, co-hosted by the Shot@Life Campaign and Rotary International, and sponsored by the Global Health Caucus, co-chaired by Representatives Betty McCollum and David Reichert, provided stunning data and compelling stories as to why it is time for the United States to lead in global polio eradication efforts.
According to Senator Timothy Wirth, president of the UN Foundation, and representatives from Rotary International, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Centers for Disease Control on the panel, we are closer than ever to stopping the sometimes fatal effects of polio once and for all. There has not been a recorded case of polio in India for over 12 months, a development that was unthinkable only a few years ago. In fact, since 1988 the overall number of polio cases has dropped from over 300,000 to under 1,000 worldwide.
Looking around the room, I was surprised to see a wide range of congressional staff ready to learn more about polio and support the cause. As a college student, it’s easy to be cynical: how do I help others when I have to worry about supporting myself?
It’s not just about money. Although it only costs $20 to help give lifetime immunity from some of the most deadly diseases to a child, there are many other ways to contribute. From one-on-one conversations with friends and family to group events and passing out posters, everyone can make a difference in global health.
Although we are close to eradication, the experts at the event noted that our progress could be lost: without support, the disease can reemerge at any time, even in countries that have been declared polio-free.
The briefing may have been designed to inform America’s leaders, but for the rest of us it is a call to action.
Leave a Comment