World Polio Day -- Rotary nears halfway mark in challenge
Rotary clubs worldwide participate in global fundraising campaign, as new polio vaccine is approved for countries still battling the disease
(Evanston, Ill., USA: 20 October 2009) – In recognition of World Polio Day, Rotary clubs are celebrating a major milestone reached in the humanitarian service organization’s global fundraising campaign to eradicate polio – with nearly US$100 million raised.
As part of a US$355 million challenge grant awarded to Rotary by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Rotary clubs worldwide are aiming to raise a total of US$200 million by 2012. The funding will provide critical support to polio eradication activities, including the distribution of a new, more effective bivalent polio vaccine that was recently approved for use in the coming months, for countries still battling the disease in parts of Africa and South Asia.
Since 1985, eradicating polio worldwide has been Rotary’s top philanthropic goal. In addition to the funds announced today, Rotary has contributed more than $800 million and countless volunteer hours to the protection of more than two billion children in 122 countries. The disease remains endemic in just four countries -- Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan -- although other countries remain at risk for imported cases.
“We have come a long way,” said Glenn E. Estess, Sr., Trustee Chair of The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International. “We have reduced the number of polio cases by over 99 percent. But we can’t let up now. The remaining one percent is proving to be the most challenging, since the poliovirus persists in the most intractable parts of the world. We have the tools to eradicate this devastating disease. It’s up to us to make sure we have the resources needed to reach every child.”
To raise awareness and funds for the global push to end polio, Rotary clubs worldwide are conducting activities surrounding World Polio Day including:
Germany: Nearly 1,000 Rotary clubs will participate in a national outreach campaign. Rotary members are holding screenings of the Oscar nominated documentary, “The Final Inch” in Cologne and Berlin. Screening events for the film, which focuses on the current challenges to ending polio in India, will include a panel of experts including the film’s producer. Other local events will include information stands, a benefit CD set featuring international recording artists—Seal, REM, etc-- (10 Euros from each sale are donated to polio eradication), benefit concerts and school events.
Austria: Austrian Rotary club members are conducting a national polio awareness week in mid-October. They will sell sunflower seeds throughout the country for five Euros- the approximate cost of ten doses of polio vaccine.
Washington, DC: Rotary members in Virginia are coordinating "The Final Inch for Polio Eradication Walk”. The 20-mile fundraising walk will end at the White House.
California: On October 24, Rotary members will show “The Final Inch” film at a regional conference focusing on polio eradication efforts worldwide.
Colorado: The Governor of Colorado will give a “State of the State” address on October 22. This year’s event will include a presentation about polio by Dr. Walt Orenstein of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Governor Ritter will recognize the unique partnership of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Rotary clubs in Colorado in the fight to end polio.
A highly infectious disease, polio causes paralysis and is sometimes fatal. As there is no cure, the best protection is prevention. For as little as US 60 cents worth of vaccine, a child can be protected against this crippling disease for life. After an international investment of US$6.22 billion, and the successful engagement of over 200 countries and 20 million volunteers, polio could be the first disease of the 21st century to be eradicated.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is spearheaded by the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). It includes the support of governments and private sector donors.
Rotary is an organization of business and professional leaders united worldwide to provide humanitarian service and help to build goodwill and peace in the world. It is comprised of 1.2 million members working in more than 33,000 clubs in 200 countries and geographic regions.
Rotary invites the public to support the polio eradication initiative by visiting rotary.org/endpolio. Cell phone users can donate $5 by texting the word “polio” to 90999.
For further information visit, www.rotary.org/endpolio or www.polioeradication.org.
# # #