Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

World Health Organization (WHO) and Rotary International share a long history. The efforts to eradicate polio would not have been possible without the commitment and support of Rotarians all over the world. Then came an unparalleled COVID-19 pandemic which caused major disruptions to health services that further exacerbated inequalities.

Director of World Health Organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who was honoured on 25 February 2021 shared, “I’m humbled to receive the Rotary Award of Honour, which I accept not on my own behalf, but on behalf of the many WHO staff and healthcare workers around the world, who have worked tirelessly with our partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative to help rid the world of polio forever. Today, we have come together to focus on how we can alleviate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on maternal and child health.”

“We are deeply gratified to be recognized by Rotary, and we renew our commitment to working together to fight polio and support the health of mothers and children globally. It shows what can be achieved when public institutions and civil society join hands to achieve common goals. The financial impact of the pandemic is making it harder for countries to sustain quality health care. Those who are already vulnerable have become more so.”

Our fight is not against a single virus

“Our fight is against the inequalities that mean women and their babies die during childbirth in some countries because of complications that are easily prevented in others. Our fight is for already vulnerable children, who have been made even more vulnerable. The pandemic has underscored society’s reliance on women both on the front line and at home and has deepened pre-existing inequalities.”

“The social and economic crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic could force 66 million children into extreme poverty, on top of the estimated 386 million already suffering. Those facing severe hunger this year could increase by an estimated 6.7 million children.”

Effects of the pandemic will continue long after the roll-out of a vaccine

“While children have a lower risk from the disease itself, they bear the brunt of many of the most severe social and economic consequences on the pandemic, not only now but over the long-term. Children around the world have missed out on months of schooling, and many have been exposed to a greater risk of violence, exploitation, and forced displacement.”

“Girls are especially at risk. Some may never be able to go back to school, and instead forced into work or marriage. Dozens of countries are at risk of running out of contraceptives and maternal health supplies. As we support countries to recover from the pandemic, we must also support them to maintain essential health services, including routine immunization for children, through investing in primary health care.”

“We know that solutions are within reach. Today’s discussion is an important step towards a more sustained collaboration in maternal and child health. Rotary International and other CSOs play a crucial role in supporting countries to respond to the pandemic, working with governments and communities. I look forward to the lessons learnt from Rotary projects and discussions on how we can work together to build a safer, healthier and fairer world for all,” concluded Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.