Time magazine names Tunji Funsho among 100 most influential people of 2020

24 Sep 2020
Financial Nigeria


Dr. Funsho was honoured for his work with Rotary International to eradicate wild polio in Africa.

Dr. Tunji Funsho, Nigerian physician and Chair of Rotary’s Nigeria National PolioPlus Committee

Dr. Tunji Funsho, Nigerian physician and Chair of Rotary’s Nigeria National PolioPlus Committee, has been named on TIME's 100 list of the world’s most influential people. The 2020 TIME100 – the 17th edition of the influential publication – was released on Tuesday, featuring a record number of doctors, nurses and scientists. The list also includes heads of state, CEOs, entertainers and activists.

Dr. Funsho was honoured for his work with Rotary International to eradicate wild polio in Africa. On August 25, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) certified that the African continent was free of wild poliovirus (poliomyelitis) after three decades of working to eradicate the infectious disease, which causes irreversible paralysis and in some cases death in children.

As the leader of Rotary’s Nigeria National PolioPlus Committee, Funsho worked alongside Rotary members throughout the country to raise awareness about the disease and participated in immunizing children against polio. Jeffrey Kluger, a TIME editor at large who wrote Funsho's TIME100 profile, said the Nigerian cardiologist was the person who did more than any other to drive polio to continent-wide extinction.  

"Together with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the WHO, the CDC and UNICEF, Funsho and Rotary helped lead National Immunization Days, getting millions of doses of the polio vaccine to children in cities and villages around the nation. They also sponsored health-education initiatives at community centres, mosques and even birthday parties," wrote Kluger.

According to a statement released today by Rotary, the organisation said Funsho is the first Rotary member to receive the Time magazine honour for the organisation’s work to eradicate polio. The organisation also acknowledged his role in ensuring Africa’s certification as wild polio-free.

“I’m honoured to be recognised by TIME for my part in ensuring that no child in Africa will ever again be paralysed by wild polio, a disease that once disabled 75,000 African children every single year,” said Dr. Funsho. “Eradicating the wild poliovirus in Africa was a team effort that required the cooperation and dedication of governments, partners, Rotary members, hundreds of thousands of health workers, and countless parents who chose to have their children vaccinated against polio.”

In a feature interview published in the September 2020 edition of Financial Nigeria magazine – Africa’s premier development and finance journal – Funsho told Jide Akintunde, Managing Editor of the publication, that the eradication of the wild poliovirus in Nigeria and throughout Africa was an incredible public health achievement for Nigeria the African region. Nevertheless, Funsho maintained that as long as polio continues to spread in Pakistan and Afghanistan, it is a threat to children everywhere.

“Hence, we must strengthen routine immunization in Africa and vaccinate every child in order to keep immunity levels high to prevent a return of the virus,” he said.  
Funsho said Rotarians in the African region, including Nigeria, have played an integral role in helping to achieve polio-free status. There are nearly 32,000 Rotary members in all 47 countries of the WHO African region, including more than 10,550 members in Nigeria. According to the Nigerian physician, some of their efforts include raising funds for polio eradication; working with leaders across the globe, in Africa and local communities to secure support for immunization activities; holding events; and raising awareness.

Dr. Funsho works closely with Rotary’s partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). The partners include WHO, UNICEF, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

Anthony Fauci, Director of US. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), is also named among the 100 most influential people of 2020. Other personalities among the 2020 TIME100 include Tomi Adeyemi, 27-year-old Nigerian-American novelist and award-winning author of Children of Blood and Bone; and Tony Elumelu, entrepreneur and Chairman of Heirs Holdings Ltd.

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