Rotary provides emergency response to polio outbreak in Tajikistan
Partners UNICEF and WHO to conduct immediate immunization activities in high-risk areas
Evanston, Ill., USA (April 23, 2010) – In response to a recent outbreak of wild poliovirus in Tajikistan, Rotary is providing a total of US$500,000 in emergency grants to UNICEF and WHO for immediate polio immunization efforts throughout the country. The outbreak requires urgent action by governments and partner agencies to again make the country polio-free.
This emergency response is intended to reduce the threat of the virus spreading to other polio-free countries, a process called importation. The emergency grant will support immunization activities scheduled to take place in Tajikistan and neighboring Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. The Tajikistan cases are the first reported in the WHO European Region since it was certified polio-free in 2002.
“Polio importations such as the Tajikistan cases, highlight our global vulnerability to infectious disease,” said Carol Pandak, manager of Rotary International’s PolioPlus Program. “It highlights the fact that polio ’control’ is not an option, and only successful eradication will stop polio in resource-poor countries.”
Outbreaks of imported cases are not uncommon during eradication efforts, underscoring the critical need to stop polio transmission in the remaining polio-endemic countries: Afghanistan -- which borders Tajikistan -- Pakistan, Nigeria and India.
“Our experience shows that where polio transmission has been stopped before, it can be stopped again,” said Pandak. “A fast, large-scale, high-quality immunization response and strong surveillance are absolutely critical.”
A highly infectious disease that most commonly affects children, polio can cause paralysis and sometimes death. As there is no cure, the best protection is prevention. For as little as 60 cents US worth of vaccine, a child can be protected against this crippling disease for life.
With its spearheading partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative—the World Health Organization, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF—Rotary’s commitment to end polio represents the largest private-sector support of a global health initiative ever. Since 1985, Rotary has contributed more than $900 million to polio eradication.
Rotary is currently working to raise an additional $200 million in response to a $355 challenge grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The resulting $555 million will fund polio eradication activities in the remaining endemic and high-risk countries.
Besides raising and contributing funds, over one million men and women of Rotary have volunteered their time and personal resources to help immunize more than 2 billion children in 122 countries.
Rotary International is one of the world’s largest non-profit humanitarian service organizations. It is comprised of 1.2 million business and professional leaders in more than 200 countries and geographical areas. Rotary members initiate community projects that address many of today’s most critical issues, such as clean water, health, hunger and the environment.
For further information, visit www.rotary.org/endpolio or www.polioeradication.org.