From 122 countries in 1988 to just two, and 350,000 cases to just 33, the world stands on the threshold of eradicating polio forever.
The two remaining countries are Pakistan and Afghanistan, challenged by accessibility and internal warfare. Until recently Nigeria was a third country, as the last polio endemic country in Africa, but it has passed the three-year milestone without a case, leading to the possibility of the whole African region being declared polio free in 2020.
In 1985, Rotary launched the PolioPlus campaign and then spearheaded the formation of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, a partnership of national governments, Rotary International, the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, UNICEF and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
For more than 10 years Rotary has marked the 99.9 per cent success rate of this partnership and need for continued effort to finish the job with World Polio Day, this year on Oct. 24. That day commemorates the birth of Jonas Salk, who, in 1955, led the first team to develop a vaccine against poliomyelitis.
To salute World Polio Day, the Rotary Club of Ladner is holding Pumpkins for Polio sales events on Tuesday, Oct. 22, with proceeds going entirely to the End Polio campaign. Sales will run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Ladner Leisure Centre and 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at Delta Secondary.
To date, Rotary has contributed more than $1.8 billion US and countless volunteer hours to the protection of more than 2.5 billion children around the world. Rotary has also played a major role in decisions by donor governments to contribute more than $8 billion US to the polio eradication effort. Canada has supported this campaign over time with $640 million US.
To sustain this progress, and protect all children from polio, Rotary has committed to raising $50 million US more per year in support of global polio eradication efforts. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will match Rotary’s commitment with a further $100 million US per year.
For more information, visit endpolio.org.