Rotary responds to polio outbreak in Tajikistan
A Rotarian in Nigeria verifies that children in a household have been immunized against polio. The perseverance that is helping to turn the tide against polio in Nigeria is also being applied to the recent outbreak in Tajikistan. Rotary Images/Joseph Lorenzo
Rotary International and its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative -- the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- are responding 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. Neighboring countries are also increasing their surveillance efforts.
Seven children in Tajikistan have been stricken with polio, the first cases of the disease reported there since 1997, and the first in the WHO European region since it was certified polio-free in 2002.
"Polio importations such as the Tajikistan cases demonstrate our global vulnerability to infectious disease," said Carol Pandak, manager of RI'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 endemic countries: Afghanistan -- which borders Tajikistan -- Pakistan, India, and Nigeria.
"Our experience shows that where polio transmission has been stopped before, it can be stopped again," Pandak said. "A fast, large-scale, high-quality immunization response and strong surveillance are absolutely critical."
Global polio eradication is achievable, and stepped-up efforts to end the disease are paying off. As of 20 April, Nigeria has reported two polio cases in 2010, compared with 193 cases for the same period in 2009. India has reported no cases in the past five weeks. Multicountry synchronized immunization campaigns are continuing in West Africa, and the outbreak that affected the entire region in 2009 now appears to be confined to the westernmost part.
According to a Wall Street Journal article, Bill Gates talked about the challenge of eradicating polio during a trip to Nigeria last year. "The benefit of finishing is huge. … We really stand at the threshold of global health success on polio."
A video accompanying the article illustrates Rotary’s vital leadership role in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. Rotary's commitment to end polio represents the largest private-sector support of a global health initiative in history. Since 1985, Rotarians have contributed more than $900 million to polio eradication, volunteered their time and personal resources, and helped immunize more than two billion children in 122 countries.
Learn more about Rotary's effort to eradicate polio: