An army of Rotary volunteers is immunizing children, raising funds, and increasing awareness of polio. Polio has decreased 99 percent worldwide since the Global Polio Eradication Initiative began in 1988, and only four endemic countries remain: Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan. Confident in Rotary’s commitment to the effort, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded Rotary two grants totaling $355 million.
On the brink of success
Energized by the launch of a new strategic plan and the highly effective bivalent oral polio vaccine, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative has scored significant gains against the disease. Rotary is a spearheading partner in the GPEI, along with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Polio declined by 95 percent between 2009 and 2010 in India and Nigeria, the sources of all recent wild poliovirus importations into previously polio-free countries.
In addition, 15 countries in Africa have stopped outbreaks of the disease that started in 2009, according to the GPEI Independent Monitoring Board.
WHO calls the progress encouraging “but the job is not yet finished,” said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, at the World Health Assembly in May. “We must see this through to the end.”