THUNDER BAY – Today is World Polio Day which provides a golden opportunity for all of us to build public support for the historic final push now underway to wipe out this disabling viral disease once and for all.
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 US$35 million per year through 2018.
“World Polio Day provides an important and timely opportunity for us to let the world know that every dollar contributed to Rotary for polio eradication will work three times as hard,” said Dr. Robert S. Scott, MD, chair of Rotary’s PolioPlus program. “Rotary invites everyone — private citizens, businesses, non- profits – to join us in this historic effort. Only one other human disease – smallpox – has ever been beaten. Now is our best chance ever to make polio the second.”
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, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, 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.
Rotary 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 rotary.org and endpolionow.org.