Polio Plus

polio plus

You all know Rotary’s effective “THIS CLOSE” ad campaign to eradicate polio. While it is true that we are moving toward the finish line we can’t relax until every country is declared polio-free.
Since the effort was launched with the Global Polio Eradication Initiative - GPEI - in 1988, 99.9% of the wild polio virus has been eliminated. Our partners in the GPEI are the World Health Organization, The US Centers for Disease Control, UNICEF and the Gates Foundation. Each organization has a unique function ranging from on the ground inoculation, funding, educational outreach, vaccine distribution, testing and transition planning.
The great news is that from 125 countries in 1988 we are now down to only TWO polio-endemic countries - Afghanistan and Pakistan. Nigeria, which until recently was the third of this group, is without any new reported wild polio virus cases. Three years without any new wild polio virus case is a requirement for being officially declared polio-free.
In 2018 Pakistan reported 12 new wild polio cases. But the country also conducted a massive national anti-polio drive with a target of inoculating 39 million children by this spring.
For Afghanistan, the number of new wild polio cases in 2018 was a troubling 21, up from 2017. Despite all efforts, over 1 million children in this country remain inaccessible for polio vaccination due to a combination of armed conflict, inaccessible terrain and cultural and religious resistance.
It is an agonizingly slow process, but without a certified 100% polio-free world, the danger persists. Unstable conflict areas, local distrust and religious beliefs make it very challenging but efforts continue to be ramped up.
Once a polio-free world has been achieved, the global infrastructures for disease surveillance, social mobilization and delivery systems already in place will be transitioned into supporting other ongoing global health initiatives. The valuable knowledge gained over three decades fighting polio will provide solid scaffolding for these future efforts.
Rotary International has committed to raising 50 million a year, with the Gates Foundation matching 2:1 over a 3-year period. By then - and perhaps sooner - we will be able to certify a polio-free world.
Please be a part of the final push to get us over the finish line and “Vanquish the Virus”. Our District 5280 goal is to raise $50,000. WE CAN DO IT if every club steps up and does its share. Please do your share: a mere $25 donation will immunize 50 kids, and $25 per every Rotarian will achieve the fund-raising goal!
October’s ROTARIAN magazine which you all received had an outstanding, graphically rich and easy to follow “Annotated Guide to Ending Polio”. It is an excellent summary of what polio is, what the efforts of eliminating it from the world is right now, and what plans are afoot to keep the world polio-free going forward.
This past fall I had the opportunity to tour The World War One Museum in Kansas City, and the presidential libraries of both President Eisenhower in Abilene, Kansas and President Truman in Independence, Missouri. In each one I found display panels about the frightful epidemic of polio in the US, but also about the concerted efforts that it took to vanquish the virus in our country.
It made me proud to be a Rotarian and know that Rotary continues to be at the forefront of eliminating this horrific scourge. With all of us pitching in, we will gain the finish line. Please do your share!
Yours in Rotary,
Judy Neveau aka “Victoria the Vanquisher”
District 5280 Polio Chair 2018-19