End Polio Now campaign heating up as Rotary celebrates birthday

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.