Rotary clubs light up the world to end polio
From the British Parliament to the Roman Coliseum, world landmarks will carry Rotary’s End Polio Now pledge during the week of 23 February.
EVANSTON, Ill. U.S.A. (Feb. 20, 2009) -- What do the Roman Coliseum, the British Parliament, and the Sydney Opera House, and Cape Town’s Table Mountain have in common?
Each of these iconic landmarks will provide a dramatic backdrop for an equally dramatic message: End Polio Now. Those three words -- Rotary’s pledge to rid the world of this crippling childhood disease -- will be projected onto each landmark during the week surrounding Feb. 23, the humanitarian service organization’s 104th anniversary.
“By illuminating these historic landmarks with our pledge to end polio, Rotary clubs are announcing to the world that we will not stop until the goal is achieved,” says Jonathan Majiyagbe, chair of The Rotary Foundation, which oversees Rotary’s polio eradication program. “We hope people everywhere will see these words -- either in person or through the media -- and join with us and our partners in this historic effort to rid the world of polio once and for all.”
The illuminated displays highlight an already historic year in Rotary’s 20-year effort to eradicate polio, a goal more than 99 percent achieved. In January, Rotary pledged to raise $200 million to match $355 million in challenge grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. All of the resulting $555 million will be spent in support of eradication activities.
In addition to the landmark displays, Rotary clubs worldwide have planned a variety of polio eradication awareness and fundraising activities surrounding Feb. 23. Just a few examples:
- In Scotland, several historic buildings, including Culzean Castle, are being briefly illuminated with the End Polio Now message on consecutive nights.
- Purple Pinkie Week begins Feb. 23 in the United Kingdom. Rotary members will solicit donations in exchange for a spot of purple dye on each donor’s pinkie finger. That’s how Rotary volunteers and health workers in developing countries record that a child has received the oral polio vaccine.
- Rotary clubs working with the Singapore postal service have arranged for the release of official postage stamps carrying the polio eradication theme and other Rotary messages.
- In a hands-on show of Rotary’s commitment to end polio, a team of 12 South Korean Rotary members, accompanied by Korean journalists, will travel to India the week of Feb. 23 to help immunize thousands of children.
Polio eradication has been Rotary’s top priority for more than two decades. The international humanitarian service organization is a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, along with the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF.
Great progress has been made, and the incidence of polio infection has plunged from about 350,000 cases in 1988 to fewer than 2,000 in 2008. More than two billion children have been immunized in 122 countries, preventing five million cases of paralysis and 250,000 pediatric deaths. Today, polio remains endemic to only four countries: India, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Afghanistan.
Rotary club members worldwide have contributed more than $800 million and countless volunteer hours to the effort and are now working aggressively to raise the $200 million needed to match the Gates Foundation grants. The money is needed to help close a funding gap that could undermine two decades of progress. To learn more about polio eradication, including how to participate in this historic effort, visit www.rotary.org/endpolio today.
For video and still photos go to: www.thenewsmarket.com/rotaryinternational