End Polio Now
Since 1985 Rotary's key humanitarian priority has been to rid the world of polio.
Polio, or poliomyelitis, is a paralyzing and potentially deadly infectious disease that most commonly affects children under the age of 5. The virus spreads from person to person, typically through contaminated water. It can then attack the nervous system.
Rotary’s first project to vaccinate children was in 1979 in the Philippines. Inspired in part by Rotary’s volunteer commitment and fundraising success, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) was launched in 1988. This remarkable partnership includes, Rotary, World Health Organization, UNICEF, the US Center for Disease Control & Prevention and, more recently, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Rotary spearheaded the campaign at a time when there were over 1,000 polio cases a day in 125 countries, paralysing and even killing children. Today, the number of cases is down by 99.9% and since 2017 wild polio cases have been seen in only two countries : Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Rotary has so far donated US$1.8 billion to the eradication effort and has protected over 2.5 billion children from the disease through vaccination programmes.
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.
Rotary members continue to be key players in many aspects of the polio programme including on the ground in a number of countries as well as fundraising and advocacy. MK Watling have donated funds to this cause throughout the years and we are all very proud of our part in this fantastic and immensely important project.
To find out more about the campaign to rid the world of polio, visit End Polio Now