In the early 20th century, polio was one of the most feared diseases in industrialized countries, paralysing
hundreds of thousands of children every year. Soon after the introduction of effective vaccines in the 1950s and 1960s however,
polio was brought under control and practically eliminated as a public health problem in these countries.
It took somewhat longer for polio to be recognized as a major problem in developing countries. Lameness
surveys during the 1970s revealed that the disease was also prevalent in developing countries. As a result, during the 1970s
routine immunization was introduced worldwide as part of national immunization programmes, helping to control the disease
in many developing countries.
In 1988, when the Global Polio Eradication
Initiative began, polio paralysed more than 1000 children worldwide every day. Since then, more than 2.5 billion children
have been immunized against polio thanks to the cooperation of more than 200 countries and 20 million volunteers, backed by
an international investment of more than US$ 11 billion.
There are now
only 3 countries that have never stopped polio transmission and global incidence of polio cases has decreased by 99%.
There has also been success in eradicating certain strains of the virus; of the
three types of wild polioviruses (WPVs), the last case of type 2 was reported in 1999 and its eradication was declared in
September 2015; the most recent case of type 3 dates to November 2012.
However, tackling the last 1% of polio cases has still
proved to be difficult. Conflict, political instability, hard-to-reach populations, and poor infrastructure continue to pose
challenges to eradicating the disease. Each country offers a unique set of challenges which require local solutions. Thus,
in 2013 the Global Polio Eradication Initiative launched its most comprehensive and ambitious plan for completely eradicating
polio. It is an all-encompassing strategic plan that clearly outlines measures for eliminating polio in its last strongholds
and for maintaining a polio-free world.
Polio is a highly infectious disease that primarily affects
children under the age of three and can cause paralysis within hours.
Before eradication efforts began in 1985,
polio paralyzed more than 1,000 children a day, which totaled about 350,000 children annually. The incidence of polio has
since declined by more than 99 percent. In 1985, Rotary launched its PolioPlus program to immunise all of the world's children against polio. As of 2011, Rotary
has contributed more than 900 million US dollars to the cause, resulting in the immunisation of nearly two billion children
easily can prevent polio. Vaccinations have prevented an estimated 500,000 children per year from contracting polio. A child
can be protected against polio for as little as 60 cents (US) worth of vaccine.
Rotary International is the spearheading member of the Global Polio
Eradication Initiative and is the largest private sector donor. It has contributed more than US $900 million to the polio
eradication activities in 122 countries. In addition, tens of thousands of Rotarians have partnered with their national ministries
of health, UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and with health providers
at the grassroots level in thousands of communities.
After 26 years of hard work, Rotary and its partners are
on the brink of eradicating this tenacious disease, but a strong push is needed now to root it out once and for all. It is
a window of opportunity of historic proportions.
A polio-free world is within our grasp.
Rotary's ongoing efforts to achieve Rotary International's and its Foundation's goal of the certification of the eradication
of the wild poliovirus. This support includes the provision of quality education and information to promote the efforts of
Rotarians directly involved in polio eradication activities, and the membership at large; facilitation of interaction, particularly
between Rotarians in polio free and polio affected countries, collaboration with Rotary partners in the Polio Eradication
Initiative, and grants to Rotarians and partner organizations.
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