On 24 October, we renew our commitment to our top humanitarian goal for World Polio Day.
This year, let’s remember a young health worker in Pakistan known as Bibi Marjana (Miss Marjana). She braves the snow and cold in the mountains to vaccinate 84 children in rural areas, visiting each home, often miles apart.
Marjana is one of the thousands of frontline workers in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and outbreak areas I consider heroes in the final push to end polio. The work they do, coupled with the vision of our partners and the support you give, is moving mountains.
With Rotary’s partnership, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative is aggressively pursuing two key goals from its 2022–26 strategy. First, we aim to halt wild poliovirus type 1 transmission. This year, only six cases have been documented as of this writing. Could this be the year we see the last of these poliovirus cases? We’re cautiously optimistic that it might.
Second, we aim to report the final case of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2, or cVDPV2, in outbreak countries. About 80 per cent of cVDPV2 cases last year occurred in subnational areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Yemen. We must implement tailored strategies to stop the virus in these areas.
Other challenges persist, including political tensions, security risks and access issues, and the lasting effect of the pandemic in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Despite these challenges, we are making progress. Poliovirus strains are diminishing, as is the number of affected regions where polio once prevailed. A new vaccine we have introduced reduces the incidence of the circulating vaccine-derived virus type 2.
Rotary is the organisation that had the audacity to take on a global effort to protect children everywhere from disability or even death due to polio. We must have the tenacity to see it to the finish line. What can you do to help us get there, you ask? Join or initiate a PolioPlus Society in your club or district and engage all members in this historic moment. And don’t forget that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation continues to amplify Rotary’s donations to polio eradication with a 2-to-1 match for every dollar.
You can also advocate the cause of polio eradication with governments to secure political and financial support and promote Rotary’s leadership role in all media. Like Marjana marching up the mountain, we have our goal in sight, and we will keep going until we get there.
TRF Trustee Chair