We're This Close to Ridding the World of Polio

Bill and Melinda Gates match all funds raised by Rotary to End Polio

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Although polio has not been seen in Great Britain for many years, it is vital that we continue our efforts to eliminate the disease worldwide.

Polio is a highly infectious virus that commonly affects children under the age of 5.  It is spread person to person, typically through contaminated water. It can attack the nervous system, and in some instances, lead to paralysis and even death.  There is no cure but there is a safe and effective vaccine.

The eradication of polio is one of Rotary’s longest standing and most significant efforts. Along with our partners, we have helped immunize more than 2.5 billion children against polio in 122 countries. Since 1988, we’ve seen a worldwide reduction in polio cases of 99.9%. Last year there were polio cases in only three countries, in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan - difficult territories due to geographical isolation, poor public infrastructure, armed conflict and cultural barriers. Until polio is eradicated, all countries remain at risk of outbreaks.


The strategy has been to immunise all children in the first year of life, then to give supplementary doses of vaccine to all children under the age of five followed by close surveillance of child populations and finally to ‘mop up’ where cases of wild poliovirus have re-emerged. The goal is to reach, literally, every child in the world.


You might have seen Rotary’s ‘End Polio Now’ Purple Crocus Campaign. The colour purple was chosen because it matches the dye painted on the fingers of children who have been immunised against the disease.


Now in 2017, we are THIS CLOSE to the final eradication of polio. It has taken the largest ever internationally co-ordinated public health effort in history run over three decades to cut deaths from polio by over 99%. The success of this effort, is down to the determination of people in five separate organisations – together, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative: the World Health Organisation, Rotary International, the US Center for Disease Control, UNICEF and Bill & Melinda Gates.  Since 2013, the Gates Foundation has matched every £1 Rotary commits to polio eradication 2-to-1.  Rotary clubs in Britain and Ireland alone have raised £20 million for this cause.


These funds help to bring together latest scientific knowledge, to track the status of the virus each week and to provide medical personnel, laboratory equipment, and educational materials for health workers and parents.

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