Aga Khan University representatives Dr Zulfiqar Bhutta, Head, Division of Women and Child Health, AKU and Jan Damery, Director, Development, Canada were among those who attended the Rotary-UN Day event held on November 5, 2011 at the United Nations headquarters in New York. More than 1,000 Rotarians, UN officials and guests attended the event.
The annual event celebrates the longstanding relationship between Rotary International and the United Nations. This year, panels on health, water and literacy highlighted Rotarian projects that advance the goals of the UN and improve lives around the world. The projects also emphasised the value of partnerships in creating a more just and peaceful world.
John Hewko, Rotary International General Secretary, observed that "Rotary is learning by experience that it can accomplish more in concert with others than it might on its own. Working together multiplies our success: one plus one equals three".
As one of Rotary’s strategic partners, AKU was invited to participate on the health panel. Other panelists throughout the day included Jacob Kumaresan, executive director of the World Health Organization, New York; Paul Edwards, senior adviser for UNICEF on water, sanitation, and hygiene; Ginny Wolfe, senior director of U.S. communications for the ONE Campaign; Philippe Kridelka, director of UNESCO, New York; and Ron Denham, chair of the Water and Sanitation Rotarian Action Group.
AKU’s Zulfiqar A. Bhutta discussed the partnership between the University and Rotary, which is focused on promoting maternal and child health in developing countries in Africa and parts of Asia.
He pointed out that more than 300,000 mothers die each year from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. "Our biggest challenge is reaching these poor women, families, and infants to give them adequate health care,” Bhutta said. “I believe we are at the beginning of the journey with Rotary International to improve child and maternal health in the hardest-to-reach places in Central and South Asia and Africa." In his presentation, Dr. Bhutta also emphasized the importance of skilled nurses and midwives in reaching out to the most difficult to reach.
AKU and Rotary International launched a Strategic Partnership in April 2011. Under the partnership, the Rotary Foundation – the charitable arm of Rotary International – will provide grants to fund nursing and midwifery scholarships for students admitted to AKU’s Advanced Nursing Studies (ANS) programme at AKU’s campuses in East Africa, in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Grants will also be available to Rotary Clubs throughout the world to establish volunteer teams to support the professional development of AKU’s nursing faculty in East Africa. The first 24 Nursing and Midwifery scholarships were awarded in October 2011.