Rotary vows to eradicate polio

In a final push to rid the world of a crippling and potentially fatal disease, Rotary International last week announced it had raised over US$90 million for polio eradication activities.

Rotary says the funds they have raised will be used to match a US$350 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – a funding agreement that will provide US$555 million to Rotary’s anti-polio initiative within the next three years.

Rotary Foundation Trustee Chair Jonathan Majiyagbe announced the figure at the organization’s annual convention in Birmingham, UK last week.

Since 1985, when polio paralyzed more than 350,000 children in 125 countries every year, ending polio has been Rotary’s top philanthropic goal. Since then, polio cases have been slashed by 99 percent worldwide, with fewer than 2,000 in 2008, and just four countries remain polio-endemic: Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan.

‘While most of the world is polio-free, this vaccine-preventable disease still threatens children in parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East,’ said Mr. Majiyagbe. ‘And because polio is a virus that moves from child-to-child, it is capable of re-emerging anywhere in the world if we let down our guard. Rotary is committed to eradicating this disease once and for all,’ he said.

Polio eradication – which hinges on vaccinating all children under the age of five years – is seen as a model for reaching families worldwide with the necessities needed to improve lives.

‘The progress made in some of the most challenging areas of the world proves that with enough commitment and support, we can end polio worldwide,’ said Rotary International President Dong-Kurn Lee.

As the volunteer arm and top private sector contributor to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative – a public-private partnership spearheaded by the World Health Organisation, Rotary International, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF – Rotary has contributed more than US$800 million and countless volunteer hours to the protection of more than two billion children in 122 countries.

Yet the Initiative currently faces a funding gap for 2009-2010 of US$345 million, Rotary said in a press release.

There are four Rotary Clubs in the Cayman Islands.

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