Rotary Takes on Polio World Wide

Children in the United States are fortunate to live free of polio, a debilitating disease that brings paralysis to its victims.  Anymore, polio is more or less a memory of a vaccination once had as a child.  But, the fight still rages against the disease on a global scale.  The Rotary Club of Hendersonville is playing a significant role in the fight against polio around the world.  Local members participate in PolioPlus, an effort of Rotary International who collaborates with the World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF.  “The goal of the PolioPlus program is the global certification of polio eradication.  By eradication, WHO, the Global Commission on Certification, and Rotary mean the interruption of the transmission of the wild poliovirus,” notes Rotary International’s PolioPlus Committee. 

The investment of Rotary International in this fight has been significant.  “By the time the world is certified polio-free, Rotary’s contributions to the global polio eradication effort will exceed $1.2 billion.  In addition, millions of dollars of 'in-kind' and personal contributions have been made by and through local Rotary clubs and districts for polio eradication activities.  Of even greater significance has been the huge volunteer army mobilized by Rotary International.  Hundreds of thousands of volunteers at the local level are providing support at clinics or mobilizing their communities for immunization or polio eradication activities.  More than one million Rotarians worldwide have contributed toward the success of the polio eradication effort to date."

The effort is paying off.  “In 1988, 10% of the world’s children lived in polio-free countries.  As of January 1, 2010, over 70% are living in polio-free countries.”  That is because Rotary and other organizations are relentless in seeking out children in need of the vaccine.  “From the launch of the global initiative in 1988, 5 million people, mainly in the developing world, who would otherwise have been paralyzed, will be walking because they have been immunized against polio.  More than 500,000 cases of polio are now prevented each year by the efforts of governments and the partnership.”
Rotary Club of Hendersonville President, Eric Jackson, notes that local efforts may seem small compared to such a large scale.  However, Jackson adds, “A child can be protected against polio for as little as 60¢ worth of vaccine.  A small amount will make an immeasurable difference for a child somewhere.”

Dr. Tamie Babb, Committee Chair of the Rotary International Foundation and local Rotary member, believes the work is worth the effort.  “The number of cases of polio has declined by 99% since Rotary launched the PolioPlus program.  But we need to continue the fight until this disease is eradicated.”  She further noted that, “We struggle sometimes to understand and cure many childhood diseases.  But, polio is one that can be prevented with a simple, inexpensive vaccine.  It’s a shame to not completely rid the world of this disease.”

Contributions to Rotary’s global effort to eradicate polio can be made at www.rotary.org.  Click the tab that says “Contribute” the select “Polio Plus.”  To learn more about the Rotary Club of Hendersonville, please visit www.hendersonvillerotary.org. 

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