Rotary celebrates, takes action on World Polio Day
After the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, the governments of Australia, Canada, and Nigeria, along with the Gates Foundation, made a combined pledge of more than US$100 million in new funds for polio eradication. Standing with Canadian Rotarian and polio survivor Ramesh Ferris (center) are Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Photo by Petina Dixon-Jenkins
“In honor of World Polio Day, 24 October, we are asking for your help to tell the world about Rotary’s achievements and to finish the job,” stated Rotary Foundation Trustee Chair Bill Boyd, in announcing to club presidents a special online initiative in support of Rotary’s US$200 Million Challenge for polio eradication.
Rotarians responded generously during the 24-28 October initiative, in which the Foundation offered double Paul Harris Fellow recognition points for online contributions of $100 or more. Contributions are being tallied and the total will be announced soon.
Throughout the week, Rotarians took up the call to end polio in variety of ways. In Australia, Rotarians and the Global Poverty Project carried out a petition drive to persuade world leaders to fully fund the critical work of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. Almost 25,000 supporters signed the petition, resulting in a $20,000 contribution to Rotary's challenge by the Rotary Club of Crawley, Western Australia, which had offered to donate A$1 (about US$1) for each signature.
In Perth, the Global Poverty Project's End of Polio Concert on 28 October raised additional funds. The concert coincided with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth; Rotarians had teamed up with the group to encourage government leaders to put polio eradication on the agenda. Following the meeting, the governments of Australia, Canada, and Nigeria, along with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, announced a combined pledge of more than US$100 million to support polio eradication efforts.
“I also want to acknowledge the efforts of Rotary in what has been a long-standing global initiative for change, and I'd like to remind everyone that change is possible,” said Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. “When the Queen first visited Perth in 1954, it was in the grips of a polio epidemic. Of course, circumstances have changed in our country.”
“The government of Canada is proud to have supported [the Global Polio Eradication Initiative] for many years,” said Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. “When Rotary International first began the campaign that would lead to the 1988 WHO resolution to eradicate polio, poliomyelitis was still a devastating disease all over the world, crippling those it touched for life.”
“Global collaboration has ensured that eradication is within reach,” said Michael Sheldrick, the Global Poverty Project's polio campaign manager and a Crawley club member. “Our generation has a chance to realize a historic opportunity and ensure that no one else ever has to fear this disease. That’s why it’s vital we commit to finish the job."
In Washington, D.C., Bill Gates joined dozens of Rotarians on Capitol Hill to affirm the joint commitment of the Gates Foundation and Rotary to make history by eradicating the disease.
Rotary clubs in Arizona, USA, launched Hike the Arizona Trail to End Polio, aimed at raising $250,000 by 14 February. Rotarians and others are pledging at least $100 each to walk, bike, or ride horseback on sections of the 800-mile trail, which extends between the state’s borders with Mexico and Utah.
In Italy, Rotarians and friends participated in the Run to End Polio fundraiser, organized by the Rotary Club of Venezia-Riviera del Brenta, as part of the 23 October Venice Marathon.
Rotary club members and supporters also created personalized photos of themselves as part of Rotary’s “This Close” public awareness campaign and used them as their social networking profile pictures on World Polio Day. Celebrity participants included Angelique Kidjo, Jack Nicklaus, Itzhak Perlman, Tanvi Shah, and Ziggy Marley.
The week that began with World Polio Day ended on another high note as well: more than 80 million children in Africa and Asia were immunized against polio, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Learn more about polio and how you can help eradicate the disease: