Speaking at the Rotary International 2016 Convention in South Korea, the Prime Minister said that polio was eradicated in Sri Lanka in no small part due to the role played by Rotary International.
“Back in 1995 a few Rotarians together with the UNICEF got in touch with the Health Ministry. They wanted to do an NID, a national immunization day. Rotary pledged to bring in one and a half million dollars for it, and was looking for the balance from the government, in order to vaccinate the whole country against polio – in one shot. The officials at the Ministry agreed that it was a good and tested idea; they thought that all children in the country should be vaccinated – except those in the conflict areas of the North and East as the government did not have access or control over those areas at that time. But the Rotarians had insisted that this was not acceptable as this was Rotary money which could not be used to vaccinate only half the country. A couple of months later your President Ravi came back with a letter, delivered to his office and to the UNICEF office. It was a letter from the LTTE in the North saying, “You can have your ceasefire. We will lay down our weapons, if your Government will lay down yours, on the days designated as NIDays”. A ceasefire came into being – they laid down their weapons. We laid down ours. And the Rotarians, UNICEF, Red Cross and other health workers went, with their white flags, on their jeeps, into the North and the East of the country where no one would have dared to go.
We called them Days of Tranquility. And they gave us a polio-free Sri Lanka,” he said.
The Prime Minister also said that a Rotary club as well as other such service organizations provides a country with something that every community, in every country – needs – irrespective of its stage in development.
He said it provides a function that is complementary to government; by offering a way for people who want to make a difference in their community to do it for themselves, together, without having to run for office first. (Colombo Gazette)