Rotary Foundation Historic News - 11/07

Polio Plus Partnership between TRF & Gates Foundation

Polio Plus Rotary International

Monday, November 26, 2007

This is a historic day for Rotary. It is our great pleasure to inform you of a new partnership between Rotary International and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that will provide a much needed US$200 million in support of our top goal of a polio-free world.
The Gates Foundation has awarded The Rotary Foundation a challenge grant of $100 million, which Rotary will match, dollar for dollar, over three years. This is the largest single grant ever given to a volunteer service organization and represents a tremendous validation of the approach and success of our PolioPlus program.
This partnership comes at a critical juncture for the polio eradication initiative, which needs an infusion of funds to reach the eradication goal. For this reason, the initial $100 million will be distributed by The Rotary Foundation through grants to the World Health Organization and UNICEF in direct support of polio immunization activities in 2008.
Your participation in this effort is crucial to making it a success. The Rotary International Board of Directors and the Trustees of The Rotary Foundation have unanimously agreed to accept this challenge grant to ensure the success of the PolioPlus program. We feel confident that this extraordinary commitment from the Gates Foundation and Rotary will serve as a catalyst for further donations from others to help us realize the dream of a polio-free world.
In 1985, we promised every child a world free from the threat of polio, and we are almost there. This funding agreement between Rotary and the Gates Foundation is a huge step forward, bringing us even closer to our goal. Success is our only option.
Wilfrid J. Wilkinson, Rotary International, President 2007-08
Robert S. Scott, The Rotary Foundation, Chairman 2007-08
For more information visit:

Bill Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, gives a baby the oral polio vaccine
Bill Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, gives a baby the oral polio vaccine at the Shadnagar community health clinic in Andhra Pradesh, India, in 2002.

Rotary International announced a partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on 26 November that will inject a much needed US$200 million into the global effort to eradicate polio.

The Rotary Foundation received a $100 million Gates Foundation challenge grant, which Rotary will raise funds to match, dollar for dollar, over three years.

Rotary will spend the initial $100 million within one year in direct support of immunization activities carried out by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative [GPEI], spearheaded by the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International [R.I.], the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the United Nations Children's Fund [UNICEF].

"The extraordinary dedication of Rotary members has played a critical role in bringing polio to the brink of eradication," says Bill Gates, cochair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation [BMGF]. "Eradicating polio will be one of the most significant public health accomplishments in history, and we are committed to helping reach that goal."

The polio eradication grant is one of the largest challenge grants ever given by the Gates Foundation and the largest grant received by Rotary in its 102-year history. Since 1985, Rotary has made polio eradication its top priority and has contributed $633 million to the effort.

"Rotarians worldwide have worked very hard over the years to reach this point, and it is rewarding to see our approach validated in such a significant way by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation," says Dr. Robert Scott, chair of The Rotary Foundation Trustees. "We hope that this shared commitment of Rotary and the Gates Foundation will challenge other donors, including foundations, governments, and nongovernmental organizations, to step up and make sure we have the resources needed to rid the world of polio once and for all."

"This partnership is a historic milestone - and timely opportunity - for Rotary through the Global Polio Eradication Initiative to help eradicate a disease that once devastated a thousand lives a day," says RI President Wilfrid Wilkinson. "I know that we as Rotarians will accept the challenge and do our part to finish the job."

The Gates Foundation grant comes at a critical juncture for the initiative, which urgently needs an infusion of funds to reach the eradication goal. Although the initiative has slashed the number of polio cases by 99 percent over the past two decades, the wild poliovirus still persists in four countries: Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan. Polio cases represented by that final 1 percent are the most costly to prevent, due to geographical isolation, poor public infrastructure, armed conflict, cultural barriers, and other factors.

"This investment is precisely the catalyst we need as we intensify the push to finish polio," says Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO's director-general. "We have the technical tools to do it, and we can achieve a polio-free world if the rest of our financial partners step up to meet the challenge."

Most of the initial $100 million will be spent in support of mass immunization campaigns in polio-affected countries, poliovirus surveillance activities, and community education and outreach. The grant will also support an expanded research agenda on ways to expedite interruption of the transmission of the wild poliovirus. Rotary will distribute the funds through grants to WHO and UNICEF.

"The funds made possible through the Gates Foundation grant will help the Global Polio Eradication Initiative scale up its efforts to provide oral polio vaccine to children in those isolated locations where it's most needed," says Ann Veneman, executive director of UNICEF. "This important contribution will improve the capacity to protect vulnerable children from this debilitating disease."

CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding says the collaboration between Rotary and the Gates Foundation underscores the importance of private-sector involvement in major public health efforts. "As a government agency, we think it's wonderful that our private-sector colleagues have taken a leadership role in something as important as polio eradication. Their participation is absolutely critical."

The announcement received media attention around the globe, including stories in the Chicago Tribune, O Globo (Brazil), La Nacion (Argentina), El País (Spain), Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, the Herald (Scotland), BBC Radio, National Public Radio, Agence France-Presse, Reuters, and Associated Press.

The initial press conference, moderated by RI’s PolioPlus Manager Carol Pandak, included remarks by Rotary Foundation Trustee Chair Dr. Robert Scott in Evanston, Illinois, USA; Gates Foundation Cochair William Gates Sr. in Seattle; and WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan in Geneva.

Media coverage continued the next day, with a press briefing convened by RI President Wilfrid J. Wilkinson in Kuala Lumpur, which was covered by 15 news organizations.

By motorcycles, camels, or bicycles, Rotarians help transport the polio vaccine to every corner of the world.
By motorcycles, camels, or bicycles, Rotarians help transport the polio vaccine to every corner of the world.

Oral polio vaccine remains tool of choice in eradication

October 12, 2007 - Rotary and its spearheading partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative remain committed to reaching all children with the oral polio vaccine (OPV).

Experts with the World Health Organization (WHO) say a recently
reported outbreak of vaccine-derived polio in northern Nigeria is an
extremely rare occurrence that happens when the weakened form of the
virus used in the oral vaccine mutates to a point where it regains
its ability to spread and to paralyze children. Such outbreaks are
most likely to occur in communities with low childhood immunization
rates and poor sanitation, circumstances that give the virus more
opportunities to mutate as it circulates among unprotected children.

"Some recent media reports have been misinterpreted as implying that
oral polio vaccine has paralyzed 69 children in northern Nigeria,"
WHO says in a statement. "In fact, these children were paralyzed by a
vaccine-derived poliovirus to which they were vulnerable because they
were not sufficiently vaccinated."

"This is a reflection of low vaccine coverage in this part of
Nigeria," explains Dr. David Heymann, WHO's representative of the
director-general for polio eradication. He notes that of the children
paralyzed, 60 were either unvaccinated or insufficiently vaccinated.

"The only solution is to step up our efforts to immunize all of
Nigeria's children," says Robert S. Scott, chair of The Rotary
Foundation Trustees and the International PolioPlus Committee. "It
would be tragic if parents kept their children from receiving the
vaccine based on unwarranted fears about its safety. OPV is the best,
most effective weapon we have to fight our real enemy: the wild

According to WHO, "only OPV is proven to rapidly provide very high
immunity in the (human) gut and stop polio transmission in a
tropical, developing-country setting."

Nigeria is one of only four countries where spread of the wild
poliovirus has not been stopped. Since the outbreak was identified in
August 2006, four mass immunization campaigns have been completed,
and more are scheduled.



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