October 23 - 29, 2011: Issue 29 

 World Polio Day; October 24th, 2011

I can jump puddles’ the well known 1955 autobiographical book by Alan Marshall was part of the school curriculum during the decades prior to this one. His narrative of contracting crippling poliomyelitis or infantile paralysis (known as ‘polio’) and his positive attitude and determination to overcome his disability are an inspiration.

Australia had outbreaks of polio during the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s that effected around 40, 000 Australians although some sources state ten times this amount were infected. Polio vaccines were not introduced until 1956 the year of the last epidemic. A compulsory immunisation program continued until 1966 although some of those affected are said to experience ‘post polio’ symptoms such as muscle aches and fatigue even today.

World polio day is October 24th. Rotary first started immunising children against polio in 1979. Since 1985, Rotary club members have helped immunize over two billion children in 122 countries against polio and contributed $900 million to supporting this project. Now that it is estimated 99% of people worldwide are protected against this crippling disease. Rotary International wants to complete the job of eradication so that no child will ever again be paralysed by or die from the poliovirus. In 2010 1000 new cases were reported, this year, 2011, only 350 new cases have occurred. Encouraging as this is those at the coalface are also aware that if this disease is not eradicated up to ten million children could be crippled by it during the next 40 years.

For as little as 60 cents worth of oral polio vaccine, a child can be protected for life. However, a major funding gap now faces the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, of which Rotary is a spearheading partner (along with the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF). More than twenty years of steady progress is at stake, and polio, now on the ropes, stands to stage a dangerous comeback unless the funding gap is bridged.

In response to the funding crisis, Rotary eagerly accepted a US$355 million challenge grant from the Gates Foundation, which Rotary will match with an additional US$200 million over three years, raising a much needed US$555 million, all of it dedicated to polio eradication. Rotary’s worldwide membership of 1.2 million men and women, representing about 33,000 clubs in more than 200 countries, immediately embraced the effort by digging deeper into their own pockets, planning special fundraisers and rallying community support.

Rotary reaches out to governments worldwide to obtain vital financial and technical support. Since 1995, donor governments have contributed in excess of $6 billion to polio eradication, due in part to Rotary’s advocacy efforts. In addition to raising money for polio eradication, Rotary members offer their time and expertise in the field to fight polio by providing support at clinics, transporting vaccine, contributing medical supplies, and mobilizing their communities for immunization and other polio eradication activities. More than one million members of Rotary worldwide have contributed toward the success of the polio eradication effort to date, demonstrating the extraordinary impact civil society can have on a global public health initiative.

With spearheading partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative-- the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—Rotary continues to make progress toward a polio-free world.

Once eradicated, polio will join smallpox as one of only two diseases ever eliminated. And the volunteers of Rotary will continue their humanitarian work, living up to its motto, “service above self.”

Rotary invites everyone who wants to learn more about this historic opportunity to end polio to visit; www.rotary.org/endpolio.
A current ‘This Close’ Campaign seeks to End Polio now by asking us all to get involved, to make a virtual pledge to garner the support of politicians worldwide.
This Close virtual pledge website:
Or our readers may find out more on a special Facebook site or on the End of Polio: http://www.facebook.com/theendofpolio?sk=wall