Posted by Rebecca Hastie on Dec 07, 2017
Tania is our Past President for Rotary Club of Balclutha and also District Governor Nominee for Southern New Zealand in 2019-20. At our Thursday club meeting she shared a presentation about polio and Rotary's role in the hugely successful Global Eradication Initiative.
  • Poliomyelitis is a highly infectious disease caused by the poliovirus. It normally affects children under 5 years of age and is incurable but preventable with vaccines.
The World Health Organisation website has an excellent fact sheet on polio.
History of Polio
  • Polio has existed for thousands of years but became a huge problem with epidemics in the USA in the early 20th century.
  • In the 1950s Dr. Jonas Salk invented a vaccine which he donated to Rotary so that big pharmaceutical companies would not profit from selling the sought-after vaccine.
  • The Americas have been polio free since 1994 and only since the year 2000 has the Western Pacific region been declared polio free and the European region since 2002.
  • Only Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria remain as endemic where the virus is still found in the population.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative website has a great interactive timeline of the History of Polio.
Rotary and Polio Eradication
  • Rotary has raised US$1.9 billion for polio eradication since beginning the PolioPlus programme in 1985 and in recent years the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation began to donate $2 for every one of our dollars invested in the initiative, essentially tripling our monetary contribution.
  • India has a National Immunisation Day every 2 months in which Rotarians are some of the 2.5 million volunteers that can administer vaccines to 180 million children in eight hours.
  • Despite the enormous progress in the last three decades, if immunisation stops then within ten years there could be 200,000 new cases of the disease every year. Just as much funding and resources are required to completely eradicate the poliovirus.
Tania's presentation is a reminder that although we can feel positive about the progress that the initiative has made towards polio eradication, the mission is far from complete and we don't want to get "polio fatigue" and relax our efforts. Districts are encouraged to donate extra from their District Designated Fund to the initiative and Rotary International's birthday coming up in February is a good opportunity to plan events to fundraise and get communities involved.
The Rotary International website has more information on how you can make a difference in the world and help us to End Polio.