This is the longest the country has ever gone without a case of polio and a critical step on the path toward a polio-free Africa. We’ve come a long way since the bleak years when the virus reached its peak. It was only a decade ago that polio struck 12,631 people in Africa- three quarters of all cases in the world.
We congratulate Rotarians who have donated $688.5 million to fight polio throughout Africa, including more than $200 million to Nigeria. We congratulate Rotarians from Africa and around the world who have also devoted countless hours to immunize the children who now have the opportunity for healthier, happier lives.
With the ambitious scope of Rotary’s PolioPlus program, our efforts are having a far-reaching, transformative impact beyond the eradication of polio.
With the infrastructure put in place by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), Nigeria not only reduced its polio caseload by 90% in 2014, but it also successfully thwarted the world’s most lethal Ebola outbreak to date, in only 90 days, a response faster than even the U.S., and rightly praised by the World Health Organization as ‘world-class’.
In Nigeria and elsewhere, the Initiative provides a blueprint to reach all children with a package of lifesaving vaccines and health interventions. This is a vital step on the path to human development, as we know that with improved public health, more resources can be channeled towards education and economic growth.
If the stringent World Health Organization testing criteria are met, then Nigeria could be removed from the list of polio-endemic countries in September of this year.
However, our work is not done. We know that polio can easily return, with devastating consequences, if we don’t stamp it out now.
We must act, as Rotarians do, to build on the progress made and stop polio once and for all. We have a narrow window of opportunity to achieve this, and if we fail, we could witness up to 200,000 cases a year in the near future.
So how can we finally make history and end polio now?
Today, we must protect the progress made in Nigeria, and support Pakistan and Afghanistan, the other two remaining polio-endemic countries.
Protecting progress means enhancing surveillance, routine immunization, and community engagement in Nigeria and other countries where transmission has been stopped.
Supporting Pakistan and Afghanistan means full political and financial commitment to eradicating polio; vaccination of all children in these countries; high quality surveillance, and the accomplishment of all the expert recommendations as part of the GPEI’s Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan.
Visit endpolio.org to download a toolkit of materials to help you share this progress – and the need for continued commitment in the coming years – with your Rotary club, your communities and your elected officials.
This all requires time, energy and investment. Pakistan’s budget requirements for polio eradication activities from 2016-2018 amounts to $305.7 million, and if we can raise this sum now, a polio-free world will reap financial savings of US$50 billion over the next 20 years and prove what’s possible when the global community comes together to improve children’s lives.
Your donation to PolioPlus will be matched 2 to 1 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, tripling your contribution.
Thirty years ago we told the world what Rotary believes: that we can achieve the eradication of only the second human disease in history. Our belief is becoming reality. For every child, let’s make sure that reality is a bright one.
Rotary International President K.R. “Ravi” Ravindran and Rotary Foundation Chair Ray Klinginsmith