One of the long-standing goals of Rotary clubs around the world has been to eradicate polio. Rotary spearheaded the campaign in 1985, at a time when there were more than one thousand new polio cases a day in 125 countries, paralysing and even killing children.
And we’re nearly there.
Today, the number of cases is down by 99.9%.
Over the last 35 years, Rotary members, working with communities around the world, have contributed more than $2.1 billion US Dollars and countless volunteer hours toward ending polio now.
In 1988, partly inspired by Rotary’s volunteer commitment and fundraising success, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) was founded. This remarkable partnership includes Rotary, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the US Center for Disease Control & Prevention and, more recently, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and GAVI the Vaccine Alliance. These organisations work in tandem with world governments to administer vaccines, raise awareness, and ultimately eradicate polio.
Because of the efforts of Rotarians around the world and our partners, we have spare nearly 19 million people from paralysis caused by polio, would they have contracted it without our efforts. Over 1.5 million people, as well, are alive today who would have otherwise died if they hadn’t received the polio vaccine.
The polio vaccine is one of the most affordable in the world, and is also easy to transport, store, and administer. Rotary members continue to be critically helpful in many aspects of the polio programme including “hands on” in a number of countries as well as in fundraising and raising awareness.
Despite there only being a handful of cases left in the world, continued campaigning, health worker training and vaccination programmes are essential to stop the disease returning and ensuring the world is certified polio-free. Over 400 million children still have to receive their polio vaccinations by the GPEI partners multiple times every single year in more than 50 countries.
You, too, can be part of making history.
The 45,000+ Rotarians across the United Kingdom and Ireland have been staunch supporters of the End Polio Now campaign and driving its continued success.