Item 1278 - Speech by President Nelson Mandela on World Health Day

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ZA COM MR-S-1278


Speech by President Nelson Mandela on World Health Day


  • 1995-04-07 (Creation)

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Transcription of speech made by Mr Mandela

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(18 July 1918-5 December 2013)

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Migrated from the Nelson Mandela Speeches Database (Sep-2018).

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World Health Day 1995

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  • English

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Minister Nkosazana Zuma;
Representatives of UNICEF;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Humanity has over the years fought against epidemics. Often, advances in the control over the spread of these scourges have been widely hailed as great successes. But in the last few years, research has created real possibilities to eradicate them altogether. The eradication of smallpox is one such major achievement which has saved millions of lives.

We have come here today to celebrate World Health Day. In doing so, we join other nations in the effort to widen the frontiers of a better and healthy life for all. On this day, the World Health Organisation has set all of us a task: to eradicate polio by the year 2000.

It is appropriate that we should use this occasion not only to rededicate ourselves to noble ideals; but to set out practical measures to rid our country of the scourge of polio. As South Africans, we have it within our grasp to meet this target. We can, if we work together, achieve this objective even before then.

It is possible. It has already been achieved in other parts of the world.

Polio was declared eradicated in 1994 in both North and South America. A number of countries in Asia are well on the way to achieving this goal.

We in Africa can do the same. A polio-free zone is emerging in Southern Africa. We are working together with our neighbours to ensure that the affliction of paralysis and deformity caused by polio is known to our children only through history books.

We also need the co-operation of all those who look after children: parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, school-teachers and child-minders in order to make sure all children are immunised.

In this effort, we are reinforced by reliable international partners; the World Health Organisation, the United Nations International Children's Fund and Rotary Polio Plus.

These organisations have been playing an active role in South Africa since the democratic process started unfolding. They have made substantial contributions to the health of children world-wide; and our partnership with them has been most encouraging.

In our own country, the most urgent task is to immunise all children under the age of five years, and to ensure that any possible cases of polio are followed up.

We are encouraged in this regard by the commitment of public health services and non-governmental organisations. On the part of government, we have committed financial resources to this campaign. I therefore wish to take this opportunity to call on all communities to work together with health institutions to eradicate this disease once and for all.

South Africa can draw pride from the fact that seven out of every ten children have received polio immunisation. Since 1992, we have had no cases of polio notified. This is good, but not good enough. We can and must do better. Let us join those countries which have already made history by eradicating polio altogether.

This is not just a matter of dealing with one disease. Neither is it a question of thwarting those diseases that can be prevented by means of vaccination. Rather, it forms part of the broader campaign to ensure that our nation enjoys a rising quality of life.

It forms part of our efforts to take care of our children, on whose shoulders rests the future of our country. It forms part of our campaign to improve their nutrition and to ensure that they get free medical care. It is part of the Reconstruction and Development Programme to build houses, provide jobs, education, sanitation and water facilities.

During the months of June and July, we will be giving polio drops to millions of children in many parts of the country. All government departments, non-governmental organisations and communities are called upon to give their whole-hearted support to this effort.

And we should repeat to those who may be in doubt: The vaccine against polio which we use is effective and safe. You have nothing to fear.

We owe it to our children, our nation and our country to take all steps possible to wipe out this crippling and maiming disease. Let us join hands to realise the objective that by the year 2000, there will be no polio in South Africa.

Working together with communities, with the World Health Organisation, with UNICEF, with Rotary, and with other nations, we are certain that we will reach the goal of a continent and a world free of polio.

Together, we can do it.

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Acquisition method: Hardcopy ; Source: ANC Archives, Office of the ANC President, Nelson Mandela Papers, University of Fort Hare. Accessioned on 25/01/2010 by Zintle Bambata




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