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Eradicating Polio

polioThis is perhaps Rotary’s largest international fund raising and service project.

Polio is:

  • A crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease, polio (poliomyelitis) still strikes children mainly under the age of five in countries in Asia and Africa.
  • Polio can cause paralysis and sometimes death.  Because there is no cure for polio, the best protection is prevention. For as little as US$0.60 worth of vaccine, a child can be protected against this crippling disease for life.
  • It can cause paralysis within hours, and polio paralysis is almost always irreversible.
  • In the most severe cases, polio attacks the motor neurons of the brain stem, causing breathing difficulty or even death.
  • Historically, polio has been the world’s greatest cause of disability.

If polio isn’t eradicated, the world will continue to live under the threat of the disease. More than 10 million children will be paralysed in the next 40 years if the world fails to capitalize on its US $9 billion global investment in eradication. Rotary was in at the beginning of the Polio eradication initiative. We always new it would be difficult and we are still in it for the long haul along with the World Health Organisation and a number of sponsoring countries. Where did we start from and where are we now?


Rotary International launches PolioPlus, the first and largest internationally coordinated private-sector support of a public health initiative, with an initial pledge of US$120 million.

The status of polio in 1988.

Rotarians raise US$247 million for PolioPlus, more than double the fundraising goal of $120 million.

Inspired in part by Rotary’s initiative, the World Health Assembly passes a resolution to eradicate polio, paving the way for the formation of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.


The Western Hemisphere is declared polio-free.


Rotarians and other volunteers immunize 165 million children in China and India in a single week.

Rotary launches the PolioPlus Partners program to enable Rotarians in polio-free countries to provide financial support to their fellow Rotarians in polio-affected, priority countries for immunization campaigns and other polio eradication activities.


The number of nations declared polio-free increases to 150. The reported incidence of polio is 85 percent less than in 1988.

Nelson Mandela officially launches Kick Polio Out of Africa, where players from the African Football Confederation participate in community public awareness campaigns across the continent.


In India, 134 million children are immunized on a single day.


A record 550 million children – almost one-tenth of the world’s population – receive the oral polio vaccine (OPV).

The Western Pacific region, spanning from Australia to China, is declared polio-free.


The Rotary Foundation,  raises US$119 million from its membership in a 12-month campaign. Rotary’s total contribution to polio eradication exceeds $500 million. Only seven countries remain polio-endemic.


In Africa synchronised National Immunization Days in 23 countries target 80 million children. The largest coordinated polio immunization effort on the African continent.


The final amount raised for the Polio Eradication Fundraising Campaign launched in 2002-03 totals more than $135 million.


The number of polio-endemic countries drops to four (Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, Pakistan), the lowest in human history.


Rotary’s overall contribution to the eradication effort totals nearly US$800 million. In January, Rotary and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pledge a combined US$555 million — which includes Rotary’s $200 Million Challenge — all of it in support of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

2012  India has been free from Polio for over a year and need to be free from endemic polio for 3 years to be declared polio free. Rotary continues to raise money towards the polio initiative and to provide volunteers to work with local health bodies to vaccinate children in the remaining countries where polio is still endemic. There are only three countries left in this category, Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan all of which are subject to the polio initiative.

2013 We can look back at the number of cases of polio and see that at the stat of the initiative there were 350,000 cases per year. In 1996 this had reduced by 86% and that by 2010 there were 1,000 cases per year. Now we are just a few hundred cases a year away fro eradicating polio.

I can here some people say that is not much help to residents of the United Kingdom. WRONG, polio is just a plane flight away. Until it is eradicated we are all still at risk. It could return to the U.K. just as easily as tuberculosis has.