PolioPlus Purple Pinkie
Our Gift to the World:
"Eradicating polio will be one of the most significant public health accomplishments in history, and we are committed to helping reach that goal with Rotary as one of our key partners."
--- Bill Gates, Cochair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
We are 99% of the way in eradicating polio. Why stop there?
Not long ago, the world was paralyzed by the fear of polio. More than 125 countries were polio endemic, and thousands of families watched in anguish as the disease killed or crippled 1,000 people a day, most of them children.
In response to this suffering, Rotary began planning in the early 1980s for one of the most ambitious humanitarian programs ever undertaken by a private entity. In 1985, it launched PolioPlus, a multimillion-dollar initiative to immunize all the world's children against polio. Rotary's commitment was so geat that the World Health Assembly resolved in 1988 to wipe out the disease that had killed and paralyzed for 5,000 years.
For the 20 years since, Rotary and its spearheading partners-the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-have worked tirelessly to rid the world of the wild poliovirus. Thanks to the generous support of Rotarians worldwide, Rotary has been able to contribute nearly $800 million to keep alive the dream if a polio-free world.
Since 1985, more than two billion children have received the oral polio vaccine. Five million children destined to be polio victims are walking today and enjoying a better life because of global immunization. Reported polio cases have dropped 99.8 percent - from 350,000 a year in 1988 to fewer than 2,000 a year today - and only four countries - Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan - remain endemic. Due to the efforts of Rotary and its global partners, the world is on the threshold of eradicating the wild poliovirus.
Although tremendous progress has been made, the world is not yet polio free. The poliovirus knows no borders; it can spread from an endemic country into polio-free areas. As long as one case of polio remains in the world, no child is safe from this deadly disease.
The greatest challenge in the battle against polio today is financial. Despite the enormous resources already committed, more money is urgently needed to reach the children in the four remaining polio-endemic countries. Recognizing Rotary's resolve to eradicate polio and its extensive volunteer network, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded Rotary a $350 million grant. In return, Rotary is committed to raising $200 million by 30 June 2012. Together, Rotary International and the Gates Foundation will provide over half a billion dollars toward our priority goal of a polio-free world.
There is now an unprecedented opportunity to finish the job and eradicate polio. Consequently, every Rotary, Interact, and Rotaract club is being asked to organize a public fundraising event for each of the next four years to help meet this challenge. All members of the family of Rotary, especially newer Rotarians, are also involved to join Rotary's legacy by making a personal gift.
Eradicating polio means that no child ever again will be paralyzed by or die from the wild poliovirus. Additionally, the $1 billion spent annually on polio could be used to address other public health concerns. Now is the time to respond.
In 1985, Rotary made the historic decision to immunize all the world's children against polio. A little more than 20 years later, the world is nearly polio free. With your help, polio will be defeated.
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