Since 1985, Rotary International has made eradication of polio its top priority, and on Jan. 13, India marked the third anniversary of its last recorded case of polio. Only Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan have never stopped transmission of the polio virus.
Since the organization became a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative with the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the incidence of polio has plummeted by more than 99 percent, from about 350,000 cases a year to 369 confirmed in 2013.
The Bellefontaine Rotary Club has been an active supporter of polio eradication efforts, contributing many thousands of dollars, as well as sponsoring club member Steve Buck to travel to Nigeria to participate in National Immunization Days. That program pairs Rotary volunteers with health workers in an effort to reach every child under age five with the oral polio vaccine.
Photos of Mr. Buck’s trip can be seen in the Immunizing Against Polio in Africa album on the Bellefontaine Rotary Club’s Facebook page.
The Americas were declared free from polio in 1994, the Western Pacific region in 2000 and Europe in 2002.
Rotary is a humanitarian service organization with nearly 34,000 clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas. Rotary members have contributed $1.2 billion toward polio eradication. Every dollar Rotary commits to polio eradication is matched two-to-one by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation through 2018, up to $35 million a year.
The organization continues to work to rid the world of polio, and knows a funding gap means immunization campaigns are being cut in high-risk countries, threatening a comeback by the disease.
For more information about polio eradication efforts or to join the fight, visit www.endpolionow.org or visit a meeting of the Bellefontaine Rotary Club from noon to 1 p.m. every Monday at the Friendly Senior Center.