The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International commenced its own version of ‘Mission Impossible’ in 1985, with its Polio Eradication Programme — PolioPlus. In 1988, it became a partner with WHO, UNICEF and the US Centers for Disease Control in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). Rotarians across the world were enthused by this worthy cause and contributed by loosening their purse strings and their wholehearted participation in the National Immunisation Days (NIDs).
The booster dose to TRF’s quest was provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which continues to match the funds raised by Rotary for Polio eradication on a 2:1 basis.
Since the initiative launched in 1988, the incidence of Polio has plummeted from about 350,000 cases in 1988 to 33 cases of the Wild Polio Virus in entire 2018, all of which were reported either from Afghanistan (21) and Pakistan (12).
Besides Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria, labeled as endemic countries, the situation in Niger, Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Papua New Guinea is also being closely monitored.
Five years ago, on March 27, 2014, WHO declared India ‘Polio-free. But we just cannot afford to drop our guard because the Wild Polio Virus is literally at our doorstep. So we need to plan finances and reach the last mile, which, in telecom, refers to the final leg of the network that delivers service to customers. This last mile is the least efficient and the costliest.
With the Wild Polio Virus at our doorstep, complacency will only endanger two decades of our efforts. Rotarians across the world are united and contributing towards the effort to eradicate the menace of Polio from our world. When achieved, this will be only the second disease, after small pox, to be fully eradicated.
Whilst the rest of the world is contributing its share, we as a country need to show more resolve in terms of contributions. Every Rotarian and every Rotary district in India must contribute financially towards the global initiative to rid the world of this crippling disease. With the virus at our doorstep, our vigilance should never cease.
Gulam A Vahanvaty
Trustee, The Rotary Foundation