(17-20 June 2007) – In 2006, Rotary International contributed US$ 22.6 million and countless volunteer hours to help immunize more than 350 million children in 33 countries against polio – a crippling and sometimes fatal disease that still threatens children in parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
Rotary and its global partners at the World Health Organization (WHO), US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF, helped the world move several critical milestones closer toward eradicating polio globally – Rotary’s top philanthropic goal.
· Almost all outbreaks in previously
polio-free countries have been stopped after an international spread
between 2003 and 2006.
Though great progress has been made,
challenges remain. Overall, the quality of immunization campaigns
must be improved with strong political oversight from the governments
of the endemic countries. In addition, more funding is critically
needed, as the Global Polio Eradication Initiative is facing a funding
gap of US$540 million for 2007-08.
As there is no cure for polio, the best protection is prevention. For as little as .60 cents worth of vaccine, a child can be protected against this crippling disease for life.
“The only way to protect every child from polio is to eradicate it completely,” said William B. Boyd, President of Rotary International. “The strategies and tools are known, and health experts agree that the challenges to stopping the spread of polio can be met. Rotary members are doing everything in their power by volunteering overseas and raising desperately needed funds.”
With its community-based network worldwide, Rotary is the volunteer arm of the global partnership dedicated to eradicating polio. This year nearly 500 volunteers from the United States, Canada and Europe traveled to India and African nations where they joined fellow Rotarians from those countries to immunize millions of children under the age of five against polio.
Rotary’s commitment to end polio represents the largest private-sector support of a global health initiative ever. In 1985, Rotary members worldwide vowed to immunize all the world’s children against polio. Since then, Rotary has contributed US$616 million to polio eradication. Besides raising and contributing funds, over one million men and women of Rotary have volunteered their time and personal resources to help immunize more than 2 billion children in 122 countries during national immunization campaigns.
To date, the number of polio cases has been reduced from 350,000 children annually in the mid 1980s to approximately 2,000 cases all last year. The Americas were declared free from polio in 1994, as well as the Western Pacific region in 2000 and Europe in 2002. Once eradicated, polio will be the second disease after smallpox ever to be eliminated worldwide.
May 2007 - Rotarians help beat back polio outbreak in India
Confident that India would soon eradicate polio, Past District 6900 Governor Robert Hall led several U.S. Rotarians to Subnational Immunization Days in Uttar Pradesh in November. The poverty stricken state in northern India was the epicenter of a 2006 polio outbreak.
Rotary Foundation Major Donors Jim and Donna Philips, whose contribution to the PolioPlus Partners program helped fund the SNIDs, also traveled with the group. The team was encouraged by the collaboration among government officials, religious leaders, Indian Rotarians, UNICEF, and the World Health Organization.
"This trip was the experience of a lifetime for all 20 Rotarians who visited Uttar Pradesh," says Hall, who pledged the continued support of District 6900 (Georgia, USA) and Zone 34 Rotarians.
Hall's optimism on polio is shared
by India's health minister, Anbumani Ramadoss. The minister told journalists
at a mid-December press conference that despite the outbreak, he is
confident that India will end polio with stepped-up immunizations.
Julie Gerberding, head of the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at the same event
that the outbreak "is a warning that we can't be complacent."
She also noted that the last few cases of polio are often the most
difficult to deal with.
Partly because of the Muslim clerics' support, India reported an overall increase in turnout of children during SNIDs in July, September, and November.
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