Rotary International is the driving force behind the world effort to eradicate polio.
The Bill Gates Foundation pledged $255-million in a challenge to Rotary to raise an additional $200-million. The challenge ends in 2012, and Rotary International raised $105-million by 2009.
Eradication of polio has been Rotary’s top priority since 1985, with more than $1.2-billion contributed to that effort. Because of those efforts, 500,000 polio cases per year have been avoided, resulting in five million people living without polio since the program was initiated.
Gates praised Rotary for providing the volunteers, advocates, and donors who have helped bring about a 99 per cent decline in the number of polio cases. The total number of cases world wide is currently under 1,500, with India, Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan as the only remaining countries with polio endemics.
With the centenary anniversary of Rotary occurring on Feb. 23 this year, a revised focus for the organization and campaign is global awareness. A concentrated push is necessary for what has been successful, but needs to continue momentum until the disease is ended. Funds raised by the local Rotary Clubs are used in part to support the End Polio Now campaign. Over the years, the local clubs have contributed in excess of $25,000 toward the campaign with the support of the community.