Polio is so close to becoming the second disease to ever be eradicated from the planet; the disease is now only present in three countries, one of which is on its way to polio-free status!
South Africa – The essential message is that when we have eradicated Polio from the planet, it will only be the second time in human history that we have put an end to a disease. The other time being the eradication of smallpox.
The polio vaccine is delivered by two small drops of vaccine. No injections!
While South Africa was declared polio-free in 2006, there have been concerns from the World Health Organisation (WHO) about our drop-in immunisation rates. They believe that we MUST continue to immunise our children in order to keep South Africa polio-free.
Top 5 Facts
- Polio mainly affects children under 5
- There is no cure, but the disease is preventable by vaccine
- Only three countries remain endemic – Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That’s why today’s news is so fantastic – no new cases of polio have been reported in Nigeria which means they can begin the process to certify Nigeria polio-free and that will make the WHOLE of Africa polio-free
- We have reduced cases by 99.9% since 1988
- Until we end polio forever, every child is at risk
Poliomyelitis, or polio, is a paralysing 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 hours. It can strike people of any age but mainly affects children under five. Polio can be prevented by vaccines, but it is not curable. Unlike most diseases, polio can be eradicated.
For more than 30 years, Rotary and our partners have driven the effort to eradicate polio worldwide. Our PolioPlus program was the first initiative to tackle global polio eradication by vaccinating children on a massive scale. As a core partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, Rotary focuses on advocacy, fundraising, volunteer recruitment, and awareness-building.
Rotary members have contributed $1.9 billion and countless volunteer hours to protect more than 2.5 billion children in 122 countries from this paralysing disease. Rotary’s advocacy efforts have played a role in decisions by governments to contribute more than $8 billion to the effort.
With our partners, we have reduced polio cases by 99.9 per cent, from 350,000 cases in 125 countries in 1988 to just 33 cases caused by the wild virus in 2018. Only two countries continue to report cases of the wild poliovirus: Afghanistan and Pakistan. The infrastructure we helped build to end polio is also being used to treat and prevent other diseases and create lasting impact in other areas of public health.
Rotary and our partners have made tremendous progress against polio, but eliminating all cases is going to take even more momentum and perseverance. Afghanistan and Pakistan face unique challenges, including political insecurity, highly mobile populations, difficult terrain, and, in some instances, logistical barriers. With sufficient resources, the commitment of national governments, and innovations that improve access to remote areas, we are optimistic that we can eliminate polio.
Rotary has committed to raising $50 million per year for polio eradication. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged to match that 2-to-1, for a total commitment of $150 million each year. These funds provide much-needed operational support, medical workers, laboratory equipment, and educational materials. Governments, corporations, and private donors all play a crucial role in funding.
Rotary in Action
More than 1 million Rotary members have donated their time and money to eradicate polio, and every year, hundreds of member’s work with health workers to vaccinate children in countries affected by polio. Rotary members work with UNICEF and other partners to prepare and distribute informational materials for people in areas that are isolated by conflict, geography, or poverty. They also mobilise to recruit fellow volunteers, assist in transporting the vaccine, and provide other logistical support.
Rotary has a growing list of public figures and celebrities who support our fight, including Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; actresses Kristen Bell and Archie Panjabi; actor and wrestling superstar John Cena; supermodel Isabeli Fontana; Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu; action-movie star Jackie Chan; actor Donald Sutherland; boxing great Manny Pacquiao; pop star Psy; golf legend Jack Nicklaus; conservationist Jane Goodall; premier violinist Itzhak Perlman; Grammy Award winners A.R. Rahman, Angélique Kidjo, and Ziggy Marley; and peace advocate Queen Noor of Jordan. These ambassadors help Rotary educate the public about the disease and the fight to end it for good.