Rotary helps world move closer to polio-free status

(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.
· Only four countries (Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan) are considered polio-endemic (never interrupted the spread of polio) – an all time low.
· The tools to eradicate polio are better than ever, as the program now has vaccines that are three times as effective and diagnostic tools that detect and track the poliovirus twice as fast.
· Policies to minimize the risks and consequences of international spread of polio are now in place, as travelers to and from polio-endemic countries are advised to be fully vaccinated before travel.

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.

In response, high-level representatives from governments, donors and international agencies, recently met and endorsed a final plan with clear milestones over the next 24-months to tackle these and other challenges to a polio-free world.

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.
"In three years, we will do away with polio," he said. "We are at the end of the problem and will hit the final nail in the coffin."

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.
India is countering the challenges of polio eradication through intensified immunizations with the monovalent oral polio vaccine. Because most of the reported cases in 2006 were from poor Muslim communities, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative is working with religious leaders to persuade more families to have their children immunized.

Partly because of the Muslim clerics' support, India reported an overall increase in turnout of children during SNIDs in July, September, and November.

Rotary is an organization of business and professional leaders who provide humanitarian service and help to build goodwill and peace in the world.
There are 1.2 million Rotary members in 32,000 Rotary clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas,

Share your thoughts, in approximately 100 words, on the Rotary International Polio Eradication & Its Partners as of May & June 2007 and receive a makeup

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