8-12 Rotary Polio Update

Gates Foundation Dedicates Tällberg Prize Toward Ending Polio

STOCKHOLM, Sweden — The global effort to eradicate polio received a SEK 1 million boost today as Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, dedicated the monetary award she accepted from the Tällberg Foundation to Rotary International –- a humanitarian service organization that has made a polio-free world its top priority.

"Ending polio forever is a critical step in protecting all children from vaccine-preventable diseases and a testament to what innovation can do," said Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "Rotary International has been an invaluable champion for bringing the world more than 99 percent of the way toward a polio-free world, and will continue to be in the final steps to success."

Accepting the monetary award on behalf of Rotary and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) -- a public/private partnership including the World Health Organization, Rotary International, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation -- is Carl-Wilhelm Stenhammar, past Rotary International president and member of Göteborg Rotary Club.

Mr. Stenhammar thanked the Gates Foundation for their continued efforts to fight polio, and reaffirmed Rotary's longstanding commitment to a polio-free world. "We are at a tipping point for polio eradication -- there are fewer cases in fewer countries than ever before, and we can't afford to let up now. The funds received today will be used for critically-needed immunization activities in countries that remain at risk. A funding gap of US $945 million threatens the progress we've made in the fight against polio, and we can't afford to let that happen." Mr. Stenhammar said.

Since Rotary began its polio eradication efforts in 1985 and co-launched the GPEI in 1988, polio cases have plunged 99 percent worldwide, from 350,000 cases a year to fewer than 700 in 2011. Only three countries have never stopped the disease: Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria. As the volunteer arm and initial financial contributor to the GPEI, Rotary has contributed countless volunteer hours and $1.2B to end polio.

After 25 years of hard work, Rotary and its partners are on the brink of eradicating this tenacious disease, but a strong push is needed now to root it out once and for all. It is a window of opportunity of historic proportions. Reaching the ultimate goal of a polio-free world presents ongoing challenges, not the least of which is a US$535 million funding gap through 2012. Of course, Rotary alone can't fill this gap, but continued Rotarian advocacy for government support can help enormously.

As long as polio threatens even one child anywhere in the world, children everywhere remain at risk. The stakes are that high. Donate now to help Rotary achieve a polio-free world. "If we all have the fortitude to see this effort through to the end, then we will eradicate polio." - Bill Gates

What exactly is polio?

Polio is:

A crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease, polio (poliomyelitis) still strikes children mainly under the age of five in countries in Asia, Africa, and the eastern Mediterranean region.

Polio can cause paralysis and sometimes death. Because there is no cure for polio, the best protection is prevention. For as little as US$0.60 worth of vaccine, a child can be protected against this crippling disease for life.

It can cause paralysis within hours, and polio paralysis is almost always irreversible.

In the most severe cases, polio attacks the motor neurons of the brain stem, causing breathing difficulty or even death.

Historically, polio has been the world’s greatest cause of disability.
If polio isn’t eradicated, the world will continue to live under the threat of the disease. More than 10 million children will be paralyzed in the next 40 years

Polio eradication is within our grasp. But if we don’t eradicate the disease now, the risk of crippling and deadly polio outbreaks will continue to threaten the world’s children. You can help Rotary get the job done by contributing to Rotary’s PolioPlus program or creating awareness of polio.

Challenges to polio eradication

Health experts agree that these primary challenges must be overcome in order to reach the goal of polio eradication:

Halting the spread of the poliovirus in the three remaining endemic countries (Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan), which continue to export it to polio-free areas

Curbing the intense spread of the poliovirus in northern Nigeria and Pakistan; Rapidly stopping polio outbreaks in previously polio-free countries; Addressing low routine-immunization rates and surveillance gaps in polio-free areas; Maintaining funding and political commitment to implement the eradication strategies

Four key strategies for stopping poliovirus transmission

1. Routine immunization - High infant-immunization coverage with four doses of oral polio vaccine (OPV) in the first year of life is critical. Routine immunization is essential because it's the primary way that polio-free countries protect their children from the threat of imported polio. Read more about the bivalent oral polio vaccine.

2. National Immunization Days - For decades, Rotary’s PolioPlus program has been one of the driving forces during National Immunization Days, or NIDs. Rotarians are involved in myriad ways before, during, and after an NID, by providing funds for millions of drops of vaccine, promoting upcoming campaigns in the community, distributing vaccine to local health centers, serving as monitors, working with local officials to reach every child, and participating in surveillance efforts.

3. Surveillance - Rotarians play an important role in working with health workers, pediatricians, and others to find, report, and investigate cases of acute flaccid paralysis in timely manner (ideally within 48 hours of onset). PolioPlus sometimes helps fund containers that preserve the integrity of stool samples during transport to laboratories. The program has also played a leading role in providing equipment for the global poliovirus laboratory.

4. Targeted mop-up campaigns - Rotary’s support of mop-up campaigns is similar to NID volunteering, but on a smaller, often "house-to-house," scale.

August 1st, 2012 - Olympic athletes help Rotary promote polio eradication by Arnold R. Grahl

Olympic diver Tom Daley is featured in "This Close" posters as part of a publicity campaign by the Rotary Club of Plympton, Devon, England. Rotarians in India also lined up several members of Indian's Olympic team, including boxer Vijender Singh, for their "This Close" campaign.

The best athletes in the world have gathered in London for the 2012 Summer Olympics, and some of them are helping to spread the word about Rotary’s campaign to rid the world of polio.

Rotarians in Plymouth, Devon, England, used a few connections to line up Olympic divers Tom Daley and Tonia Couch for “This Close” posters, which have been displayed around Plymouth and at the training facility used by Ghana’s Olympic team.

Darren Hands, a member of the Rotary Club of Plympton, was put in contact with the athletes’ coach by a photographer friend who takes pictures of the divers regularly. The coach was happy to approach Daley and Couch and help make arrangements, Hands says.

“We did the shoot quite early in the morning so as not to impede their training,” he says. “We then produced various-size posters and postcards, as well as got the images printed in the local press and onto club and district websites.”

District 1290 received a public relations grant to use Couch’s image on bus advertisements around the counties of Devon and Cornwall to raise her image during the Olympics, promote Rotary’s polio efforts, and help with a membership drive.

“The campaign has received a lot of praise,” says Hands. “Together with the Rotary Club of Grantham’s Swimarathon, we were awarded the Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland (RIBI) PR Award at our national conference back in April.”

Other Olympic athletes participating in the “This Close” campaign are more than a dozen members of India’s team, including members of the men’s boxing, men’s and women’s weightlifting, and men’s and women’s wrestling teams.

Appealing to parents, wrestler Sushil Kum, a bronze medalist at the 2008 Beijing games, said: “In 1988, 500 children were getting affected by polio in India every day. Today, our country is reaching steadily toward eradication of polio. We need your help to win this fight.”

And Vijender Singh, a member of the boxing team who won a bronze medal in Beijing, said: “Polio vaccine can save a child from polio paralysis. Let us ensure that children are not paralyzed by giving them the vital drops.”

Europe ten years polio-free
Polio survivor and Swiss Rotarian Urs Herzog
By Urs Herzog, past governor of District 1980 (Switzerland) and a polio survivor.

June 20, 2012 - This week marks ten years since the World Health Organization certified the European region polio-free. As a Rotarian and a polio survivor, I celebrate how far we’ve come, and recognize the work that still lies ahead to make sure no child suffers from polio again.

I was infected with polio at the age of 8 – the year when the polio vaccination was first introduced in Switzerland. Once I contracted the disease, I felt very tired and no longer had the energy to keep up with the rest of my family, even during a walk. Soon, my entire right leg was weak and partially paralyzed. I spent weeks in the hospital, receiving numerous treatments and multiple surgeries on my right foot. Because of polio, I abandoned my childhood dream of playing sports and becoming a pilot.

Although it was too late for me, the advent of the polio vaccine in the 1950s meant that the terrible disease that brought suffering to so many families could finally be beaten. It meant that the years of children in Europe becoming seriously ill and even dying from polio could now be placed firmly in the past. It meant that children affected by polio would no longer have to live isolated in small rooms, away from their families, who previously could only greet them from behind glass. What a joy to be vaccinated and to save a child’s life! For years people recognized the privilege of living polio-free, but today that privilege is at risk of being forgotten.

We should remain grateful for this privilege and always remember that for too many children in this world, vaccination is not still certain. In some countries children still suffer from polio or even die. Until polio is eradicated everywhere, unvaccinated children remain at risk.

This became clear in 2010, when an outbreak in Tajikistan caused nearly 500 polio cases, and put the region at risk.

Many years after polio led me to spend long weeks in the hospital, I became a surgeon myself, and fulfilled my wish to work in Africa, where polio still threatens the lives of children every day.

In the late 1970s, when Rotary launched polio immunization campaigns, nobody imagined polio eradication would become one of the largest-ever health initiatives originating from the private sector. With our partners, WHO, UNICEF, CDC and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and with support of many governments, I hope we will soon mark the anniversary of a polio-free world.

June 14, 2012 - The Washington Post's View

The Polio Endgame

THE WORLD IS closer than ever to eradicating the polio virus. When the effort began in 1988, the disease was endemic in 125 countries, but now just three remain: Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. In recent months, there have been fewer cases in fewer districts of fewer countries than at any time in history. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), said recently that the battle against polio is at a “tipping point between success and failure.”

Polio is a highly infectious disease that affects the nervous system and can lead to paralysis. It largely strikes children 5 years old and younger, but there have been more cases involving adults in recent years, with higher lethality. Obliterated in the United States 30 years ago, polio has proved a stubborn foe elsewhere in the world. As recently as the 1980s, polio killed or paralyzed more than 350,000 children each year. But the eradication effort has come a long way. There were only 650 cases last year and only 73 so far this year.

The potential benefits of wiping out polio are improved lives for millions of children. Yet eradicating diseases is immensely difficult. So far, the campaign against smallpox stands as the only success. For years, there was concern that if the transmission of polio could not be halted in India, eradication would be impossible. But India has been free of polio since January 2011. Also, a more effective oral vaccine is targeting the two strains of the virus that are most prevalent.

On May 26, the 194 member states of the WHO declared polio eradication a “programmatic emergency.” The idea is to galvanize work in the remaining polio-infected areas of Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. All three nations suffered alarming spikes in cases last year, and the goal of delivering oral vaccine to every child is up against the formidable obstacles of war, corruption, weak public health systems and widespread migration. This appears to be another make-or-break moment.

A renewed campaign will be costly. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, set up in 1988 by the WHO, UNICEF, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Rotary International, says that it needs an additional $945 million for a total budget of $2.19 billion this year and next. For the current fiscal year, the United States has boosted support to $151.1 million, up $17.6 million over last year. Rotary International has exceeded its goal to raise more than $200 million to match a $355 million challenge grant over several years from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The CDC has made polio a top priority; it put some 90 people to work on it every day in its emergency operations center. These examples and the urgency of the cause will hopefully inspire other donors around the world to fill the budget gap.

Stamping out polio is not a sure thing, but this may be the best chance in a generation. It should not be missed for lack of resources. Contribute here.


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