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  • Mary Kemnitz

Polio: we're almost there, but not yet.


They say the last 100 yards are the hardest and they are right. Polio has been eradicated for several years in almost all the countries in the word, but there are still a few more battles to win before we can call it a complete victory.


Poliomyelitis (polio) is a paralyzing and potentially fatal disease that still threatens children in some parts of the world. The poliovirus invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours. It can strike at any age but mainly affects children under five. Polio is incurable, but completely vaccine-preventable. Rotary, along with our partners, has reduced polio cases by 99.9 percent worldwide since our first project to vaccinate children in the Philippines in 1979. We are close to eradicating polio, but we need your help.


Whether you have a few minutes or a few hours, here are some ways to make a global impact and protect children against polio forever. In 1985, Rotary launched its PolioPlus program, the first initiative to tackle global polio eradication through the mass vaccination of children. Rotary has contributed more than $1.5 billion and countless volunteer hours to immunize more than 2.5 billion children in 122 countries. In addition, Rotary’s advocacy efforts have played a role in decisions by donor governments to contribute more than $9 billion to the effort. Today, there are only two countries that have never stopped transmission of the wild poliovirus: Afghanistan and Pakistan. Less than 370 polio cases were confirmed worldwide in 2014, which is a reduction of more than 99.9 percent since the 1980s, when the world saw about 1,000 cases per day. Rotary has a growing roster of public figures and celebrities participating in its “This Close” public awareness campaign, including Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, action movie star Jackie Chan and peace advocate Queen Noor of Jordan. These ambassadors help educate the public about polio through public service announcements, social media and public appearances. Join us! Let’s end polio today!

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