On a sunny afternoon 30 years ago
James L. Bomar, 1979-80 RI President, administers the first drops of vaccine to a Philippine child 29 September, 1979, launching the Philippine poliomyelitis immunization effort which set the stage for Rotary's efforts to end polio. Rotary Images
On a sunny afternoon in September 1979, Rotarians and delegates of the Philippine Ministry of Health looked on as volunteers administered drops of the lifesaving Sabin polio vaccine to about 100 children in the Manila barrio of Guadalupe Viejo.
The date was 29 September, and when then-RI President James L. Bomar Jr. put the first drops of vaccine into a child's mouth, ceremonially launching the Philippine poliomyelitis immunization effort, Rotary's first Health, Hunger and Humanity (3-H) Grant project was underway.
Hundreds of Philippine Rotarians and community members were on hand as Enrique M. Garcia, the country's minister of health, joined with Bomar to sign the contract committing Rotary International and the government of the Philippines to the joint five-year effort to immunize about six million children against polio in a US$760,000 immunization drive.
The success of the project ultimately led to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, of which Rotary is a spearheading partner, created in 1988 by a unanimous vote of the World Health Assembly. It also set the stage for Rotary's signature campaign to rid the world of polio.
On the 30th anniversary of the first 3-H grant, that campaign is moving forward as strongly as ever. Through the work of Rotary and its partners, the number of polio cases has been slashed by more than 99 percent. When Rotary began its eradication work, polio infected more than 350,000 children annually. In 2008, fewer than 2,000 cases were reported worldwide.
Global health experts have stepped up efforts to end the disease in the four countries where it remains endemic -- Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan. Rotary's US$200 Million Challenge, which ends 30 June 2012, is seen as crucial to the initiative's success.
The 3-H grant program also continues to evolve under the Future Vision Plan, The Rotary Foundation's blueprint to simplify its grant structure, direct more resources to projects with high-impact and sustainable outcomes, and gain greater public recognition for the Foundation's work. A three-year pilot phase, from 2010 to 2013, will test the model and identify areas for retooling. Districts have already been selected to participate in the pilot.
Learn more about Rotary's effort to eradicate polio: