Perhaps Rotary’s biggest international challenge has been its
determination to eradicate Polio. In
1985 Rotarians took the amazing decision to immunise every child in the world
in order to end this scourge. Subsequently the WHO has participated and more recently
the Bill Gates Foundation has matched every penny raised by Rotary. Today,
thanks to the pioneering work of Rotary, Polio is almost eradicated.
It is a disease which
primarily affects children under 5.
The Purple for Polio initiative is one launched by Rotary
in Great Britain and Ireland to raise funds and awareness for their efforts to
eradicate polio across the world and promote the work of their global campaign, End Polio Now.
When a child receives their life
saving polio drops on mass polio immunisation days in many countries their
little finger is painted with a purple
dye so it is clear they have
received their life saving vaccine.
Rotary’s pledge for a polio free
world was made when there were 125 polio
endemic countries, 350,000 cases and hundreds of new cases every single day. In
2018 there were only 19 cases in the entire world but as long as there is one
single case anywhere children everywhere are at risk.
Thanks to Rotary, and the support of
their partners the World Health Organisation,, Unicef, the Centres for Disease
Control and Prevention and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, there are now
just two countries still classed as endemic: Pakistan and
Already Rotary Clubs around the
world have invested over $1 billion in the target to eliminate polio
completely. To finish the job over 2 billion doses of oral polio vaccine have
to be administered each and every year in over 60 countries until the world is
finally certified polio free. The Gates Foundation has promised to treble
donations made in the future.
So eradication is now so close! However there have been signs of the disease rearing its head in parts of Africa in 2022. The Club is raising funds in 2022 by selling 4000 crocus corms whose flowers represent the purple dye mentioned above.