Let’s join hands to End Polio Now


Dear Rotarians,

Mothers are happy when their children are healthy.

I’m sure you know that Rotary executes many programmes worldwide for the benefit of mothers and children in the underprivileged sections of our society with the support of The Rotary Foundation. Rotary makes high quality healthcare available wherever possible, so that they can live healthier and longer lives. We expand our access to quality care to ensure mothers and children of poorer families have the same opportunities for a healthy and happy future as the more privileged.

It is shocking that even today, with so many technological advances in medicine and healthcare, an estimated 5.9 million children under the age of five die each year because of malnutrition, inadequate healthcare, and poor sanitation.

As Rotarians, we can prevent such things from happening. The major challenge is to reach children with vaccines. For example, though Rotary’s strategic plan includes a strong framework for ending polio, there is an urgent need to re-focus on certain priorities and activities. This includes strengthening disease surveillance, improving the quality of immunisation campaigns and building capacity to respond to an outbreak.

Rotary has mobilised its worldwide resources and literally eradicated polio to the last handful of children. But Rotarians and others have to keep working. People will naturally say, ‘Well, it seems to be basically over so let’s move on to other things,’ but the fact is it is not gone. If we move on and don’t fulfil the promised job, we face the danger of the poliovirus returning.

Last year, when I was in Manila for the RI District 3830 Conference, the Rotarians told me that in the year 1979 the Philippines Rotarians and delegates of the Philippine Ministry of Health worked together to implement the oral vaccine for polio immunisation, on an experimental basis. They were supported by hundreds of volunteers who administered the oral polio vaccine drops to children in Manila. When James L Bomar Jr, the then Rotary International President, put the first polio vaccine drops into a child’s mouth, he ceremonially launched the Philippine poliomyelitis immunisation effort. Along with Enrique M Garcia, the country’s Health Minister, he signed an MoU committing Rotary International and the Philippines Government to a joint five-year effort to immunise around six million children against polio at a cost of around $760,000.

The success of the PolioPlus project set the stage for Rotary’s top priority to rid the world of polio. Rotary then introduced its PolioPlus campaign and since then the number of polio cases worldwide has dropped by over 99 per cent, and the virus remains endemic in just three countries — Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. Still, we need to continue our contribution to End Polio Now. After the last case of polio is reported, it will still take three more years to get the entire world certified polio-free. The immunisation activities will therefore continue to need volunteers and funding through at least 2020. It is the duty of every Rotarian to support Rotary to make a polio-free world. The true victory to humanity will be the day we eradicate the scourge of polio and show the world how Rotary is making a difference.


C Basker
Director, Rotary International

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