Since making the pledge in 1985 to the children of the world that Rotary would seek to wipe polio from the face of the earth - our most ambitious programme ever – we, in partnership with health agencies such as the WHO and supporters like the Gates Foundation, have reduced the number of cases of polio by over 99.9 percent.
We have been talking confidently about the 'End Game' publicly stating that "Polio WILL be eradicated by the end of 2018" but that will not be achieved without a final push from all Rotarians.
Of the remaining three endemic countries - Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria, Nigeria has not recorded a case of polio since the middle of 2016. At that time, the country had not had any cases for two years proving that we have to be ever vigilant.
What is particularly encouraging is the last reported case was in June. Polio cases increase rapidly during the hot months of summer.
The number of vaccine derived polio has dropped significantly. The effort is now the phasing out of the trivalent oral vaccine in favour of the bivalent inoculations as the main preventative immunisation. This is highly unlikely to cause polio, but is more expensive to produce and, to vaccinate, requires training. Much more funding will be required by 2019 if we are to finish the job.
As Rotarians we have a responsibility to support the on-going work that will finally eradicate polio. We have been asked to contribute $35 million annually and when we do, the Gates Foundation is contributing $2 for every $1 we raise to realise a total of $105 million each year.
The reality of vaccination in Afghanistan!
There are some 1.2 million Rotarians world-wide so the personal commitment amounts to only $29 per Rotarian per year - about £22, or £1.90 per month, and what else can you buy for £1.90 that will have such a long-lasting effect?
So, good reasons to end polio?
To fulfil our promise to the children of the world.
To improve lives. 16 million people are walking today who woul otherwise be paralyzed.
To invest in our future. If polio isn’t eradicated more children could be paralyzed. A polio free world will be a far safer place for children everywhere.
To improve child health. Polio surveillance networks and vaccination campaigns also monitor other health problems where vitamin deficiency and illnesses, like measles, can be addressed later.
To save money. It is an investment and the global economy could save billions in health care.
To make history. The eradication of polio will be one of history’s greatest public health achievements following the eradication of smallpox to be only the second human disease banished from the face of the earth.
About our End Polio Now campaign
Polio is the shortened name of poliomyelitis, the crippling disease caused by the polio virus. One in 200 cases results in paralysis, which leads to the limbs of the victim becoming limp and disfigured. The paralysis is almost always irreversible. Historically, polio has been the world's greatest cause of disability.
The road to almost zero has been a long one–and a lot of the credit has rightly gone to us in Rotary International, when we made polio eradication our mission in 1979. That year the we began a five-year campaign to vaccinate upwards of 6 million children in the Philippines. In 1988, Rotary joined hands with UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to form the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. In 2007 the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation came aboard.
Today more than 2.5 billion children have been vaccinated worldwide at a cost of over $15 billion.