"How fitting that we are holding this important program in Chicago, Rotary's hometown," said Dr. Robert S. Scott, MD, who chairs Rotary's polio-eradication program. "Rotary began the fight to end polio, and today – World Polio Day 2013 – we and our partners have never been closer to our goal of a polio-free world. Rotary invites everyone -- private citizens, businesses, non-profits – to join us in this historic effort. Only one disease – smallpox – has ever been beaten. Now is our best chance ever to make polio the second."
Dr. Murphy of the Center for Global Health concurs: "It is very important to finish the job soon, because we are so close. Eradication is completely doable, and when it happens, it will be a huge public health achievement."
Dr. Aylward notes that when Rotary began its polio eradication work, the disease infected more than 350,000 people a year, compared with the 223 cases for 2012 – a drop of more than 99 percent. "When Rotary set out to eradicate polio over 25 years ago, most of the world thought it was impossible," Aylward said. "Today, it is very close to inevitable. There is still huge work to do, but Rotary has shown the world how the impossible can be converted to the inevitable with the right strategy, the right tools, and the right commitment."
Ogbe, now the wellness coordinator at Brown-Forman in
, claims a personal stake in the effort.
"This fight to end polio is personal to me," he said. "Polio still exists in
and is still killing and disabling children. We cannot afford to lose the fight against polio."
Rotary and polio eradication
In 1988, Rotary helped launch the
Global Polio Eradication Initiative
with the WHO, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since then, Rotary club members worldwide have contributed more than
and countless volunteer hours to the polio eradication effort.
Overall, the annual number of new polio cases has plummeted by more than 99 percent since the 1980s, when polio infected about 350,000 children a year. Only 223 new cases were recorded for all of 2012. More than two billion children have been immunized in 122 countries, preventing five million cases of paralysis and 250,000 deaths. Polio today remains endemic in only three countries,
, although "imported" cases in previously polio-free areas – such as the
Horn of Africa
-- will continue to occur until the virus is finally stopped in the endemic countries.
This year, World Polio Day fundraisers will have greater impact due to the new fundraising campaign,
End Polio Now: Make History Today
recently launched by Rotary and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Gates Foundation will match two for one every new dollar Rotary commits to polio eradication up to
per year through 2018.
is a global network of volunteer leaders dedicated to tackling the world's most pressing humanitarian challenges. Rotary's 1.2 million members hail from more than 200 countries and geographical areas. Their work improves lives at both the local and international levels, from helping families in need in their own communities to working toward a polio-free world. For more information, visit
SOURCE Rotary International