Posted by Susan Weaver on Nov 15, 2019
Rotary Foundation Month Focus
In 1979, Rotary a five-year commitment to provide and help deliver polio vaccine to six million children of the Philippines. Rotary had established a new Health, Hunger, and Humanity (3-H) program, and this was the first project undertaken. Similar five-year commitments followed with Haiti, Bolivia, Morocco, Sierra Leone, and Cambodia. 

These projects led to one of the most ambitious public health projects ever undertaken - to completely eradicate the polio virus by launching an all-out campaign to vaccinate every child against the disease. 


Rotary’s initial pledge of US$120 million to the Polio Plus program was made in 1985 at the 40th Anniversary Celerbation of the United Nations, and that year Dr. Albert Sabin, who had developed the oral polio vaccine, became a special consultant to the Polio 2005 Committee.

As the global public health community rallied to the cause, Rotarians responded over the next three years by donating US$240 million - double their initial committment - and have continued to increase their support year after year.



The fight has been costly and Rotary has enlisted the help of partners to aid in both funding the campaign and in carrying it out on the ground. Collectively, Rotary and its partners form the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). The Gates Foundation, which joined the eradication effort in 2000, has for the last several years matched Rotary’s contributions 2:1. The Centers for Disease Control, UNICEF and the World Health Organization have collaborated with local government agencies to design and carryout the eradication campaign. Together with countless volunteers, team members are the super heros of the day-to-day operations - the Agents of Polio Eradication.

(If you cannot see the video below on your device, click here).
At the outset, Rotary acted mainly as a catalyst, providing money for vaccine and local volunteer support to overcome problems associated with distribution. Expenses for the core group of polio experts at the World Health Organization (WHO), the Strategists who guide the global program, were covered by a grant from The Rotary Foundation. Today, PolioPlus funds are used to provide transportation and other operational costs associated with vaccine delivery; surveillance efforts, including laboratory needs, to identify areas where the virus circulates (the Virus Hunters), and training for healthcare workers and volunteers who carry out the immunization process (the Immunizers). Rotarians, through their volunteer efforts and social networks, are among the most vocal Advocates. 
The initial estimate of the cost to eradicate polio was US$2 billion, but a recent update by WHO puts the cost at US$4.5 billion.  The increase is attributable to the difficulty of wiping the virus out in remote areas, particularly in Afghanistan and Pakistan. All it takes to reintroduce the virus is for someone who is carrying it to board an airplane or otherwise cross a border. If we stop before eradicating the virus entirely, within 10 years 200,000 people could be afflicted with polio.
(If you cannot see the video below on your device, click here).


Getting to Zero Matters, and getting there requires that we Rotarians no let up on our financial commitment.  

This month is Rotary Foundation Month and it is the perfect time to donate to Polio Plus, which is a Rotary Foundation fund. If you haven’t made your donation yet, you can do so here - - and thank you for your continuing commitment to Rotary and Polio Plus.


(If you cannot see the video below on your device, click here).

Both photos above are courtesy of Rotary International.
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