In recognition of World Polio Day today, Rotary clubs are ramping up their efforts to raise the funds and awareness needed to eradicate the crippling disease. This year, significant progress has been made against polio. Polio cases worldwide decreased more than 40 percent during the first eight months of 2011, compared with the same period in 2010. In India, one of four remaining polio-endemic countries, only one case of polio has been reported in all of 2011.
A highly infectious disease, polio often causes paralysis and is sometimes fatal. There is no cure, but polio is easily preventable. For as little as 60 cents worth of oral vaccine, a child can be protected for life. A total international investment of $8 billion to date has polio on the verge of becoming only the second human disease ever eradicated. Smallpox was declared eradicated in 1979.
Since 1985, eradicating polio worldwide has been Rotary's top philanthropic goal. Rotary has contributed more than U.S.$1 billion and countless volunteer hours to protect more than two billion children in 122 countries. In addition to India, the disease remains endemic -- meaning spread of the wild poliovirus has never been interrupted -- to Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. Until endemic polio transmission is stopped, other countries remain at risk for imported cases.
In response to a $355 million challenge grant awarded to Rotary by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Rotary clubs worldwide are aiming to raise a total of $200 million by 2012. The organization has raised about $190 million toward that goal. The funding will provide critical support to polio eradication activities.
Rotary club events and related activities surrounding World Polio Day include the following:
- Rotary members and supporters worldwide are encouraged to create personalized photos of themselves as part of Rotary's "This Close" public awareness campaign and use those photos as their social networking profile pictures on World Polio Day.
- Rotary members in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia are organizing a "Walk to End Polio Now" event that will culminate in Meskal Square, where walkers will be joined by polio survivors.
- Rotary members in North America are coordinating a "Wake Up Across the Continent" campaign of polio-related events on Oct. 24.
- Australian Rotarians are working with the Global Poverty Project on a petition drive urging world leaders to fully fund the critical work of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. Rotarians can sign the petition online.
- The Global Poverty Project also is planning an End of Polio concert on Oct. 28, timed to coincide with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, Australia. The group and Rotarians have lobbied leaders to put polio eradication on the agenda.
- On Oct. 23, Rotary leaders in Nepal will host a one-day seminar on polio in conjunction with UNICEF office.
- Also on Oct. 23, Rotary clubs in the Boston area will host A Festival of Voices - Singing Out to End Polio Now, featuring top a capella groups.
- Rotarians in Africa have created a World Polio Day Facebook page centered around the "This Close" campaign.
- Rotary members in California are asking every city and town mayor to proclaim Oct. 24 as World Polio Day.
- The week of Oct. 24, Rotary members in Finland will launch an awareness campaign in newspapers, television and online. They will also conduct a telephone fundraising campaign and a related event on Oct. 24.
- Rotary members in northern Colorado and Wyoming will launch an advertising campaign in 27 newspapers throughout the region on Oct. 24.
- Rotary members in Pays d'Auray, France have organized a "run against polio" for students in middle and high schools. Every kilometer run will fund a vaccine dose for one child.
- Rotary clubs in the Netherlands plans will air a special national TV program on World Polio Day
- In Japan, Tokyo Tower will be illuminated purple on World Polio Day, symbolizing the purple dye placed on the pinkie finger of each child who receives polio vaccine during immunization drives in developing countries.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is spearheaded by the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). It includes the support of governments and private sector donors, most notably the Gates Foundation.
Rotary is an organization of business and professional leaders united worldwide to provide humanitarian service and help to build goodwill and peace in the world. It is comprised of 1.2 million members working in more than 33,000 clubs in 200 countries and geographic regions.