UN advocates for prayer to promote children’s welfare

ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Universal Children’s Day will be commemorated on November 20 and UNICEF is advocating the day be set aside for prayer for the well-being of all children.

“More than a day, the World Day of Prayer and Action For Children is a movement to encourage partnerships between faith-based and secular organisations to work towards a world where all children can learn, grow and flourish in a safe environment. Promoting the rights and dignity of every child will ensure a better tomorrow for the entire human family,” read a UN release.

The World Day has as its aim improving the welfare of children and ending violence against them.

“To realise our common goals of health, safety and dignity for all children, people and organisations committed to children’s rights and well-being must work together. Diverse groups speaking out and acting to improve children’s welfare can achieve more than any organisation working alone.

Too many children around the world suffer violence at home, in school, in their communities or in other settings where they should feel nurtured and safe. Violence against children happens in every country and society and across all social groups.

This violence includes physical and psychological forms, and the short and long-term repercussions for children are often grave and damaging.”

Religious groups, the communiqué noted comprise billions of the world’s people, who are in a unique position to spur this global effort.

Yesterday was World Polio Day and according to the World Polio Day website, in the 1980s, polio paralysed at least 1,000 children every day all over the world. Today, after international efforts to immunise every child everywhere, 5 million people are walking who would otherwise be paralysed, and the world is almost polio-free.

This is due to the development of a safe and effective vaccine by Dr Jonas Salk and the commitment in the 1980s of the International Rotary organisation and its partners – the UN Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UNICEF, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organisation – to eradicate the disease.

Over the past 26 years, Rotary’s 1.2 million members in 200 countries and regions have contributed more than $1 billion and countless volunteer hours to help immunise more than two billion children in 122 countries.

And the push continues. As evidence, this year, India has the lowest number of polio cases in history.

Despite this progress, children in some developing countries continue to be infected. So Rotary and its partners are working to reach children in some of the most challenging regions of the world with the oral polio vaccine.

Rotary acknowledges that the greatest challenge to the polio eradication effort is a funding shortage.  In response, the organisation is working to raise US $200 million in response to a $355 million challenge grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The resulting $555 million will support crucial immunisation activities in countries where polio still threatens children. Rotary club members worldwide already have raised $180 million of the $200 million challenge.

Rotary also reaches out to governments worldwide to obtain vital financial and technical support. Since 1995, donor governments have contributed in excess of $8 billion to polio eradication, due in part to Rotary’s advocacy efforts.

The commitment of Rotary volunteers worldwide demonstrates the extraordinary role civil society can play in improving global health.  Right now, in honour of World Polio Day, Rotary clubs around the globe are doing their part to raise awareness and critically needed funds to vanquish the disease forever.

Once eradicated, polio will join smallpox as the only two human diseases ever eradicated, fulfilling Rotary’s promise to create a polio-free world.