“Countdown to history” is a phrase I especially like. Those three words express not just how momentous Rotary’s polio endeavour is — something achieved only once before in the human experience — but also that the finish line is within sight.
Rotary and our strategic partners are united behind eradicating polio. Our 2016 Council on Legislation voted to reaffirm polio eradication as a goal “of the highest order”. At the recent 70th World Health Assembly in Geneva, global health leaders reiterated their commitment to polio eradication. News coverage of our efforts pops up everywhere. Projects continue worldwide — such as District 6930’s annual World’s Greatest Meal — that focus on Rotarians’ primary responsibilities of fundraising, advocacy and volunteer recruitment.
Just think: The next case of polio could be the last case. But we must be careful, because that “last case” will not be the end of our task. In fact, that’s when the job gets even harder. The World Health Organisation will require at least three years with zero cases reported before certifying the world polio free.
During that time, intensive vaccination and observation operations will need to continue. On the vaccination side, children will continue to receive the polio vaccine. On the surveillance side, watching for signs of resurgence is vitally important. As the number of cases and patients with visible symptoms drops, this observation grows increasingly more expensive.
This is why Rotary has increased its commitment to fighting polio to $50 million per year and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has extended its 2-for-1 match of Rotary donations for another three years. To achieve this goal, we need you more than ever. If Rotarians hit the fundraising goal each year, the total will be $450 million. At the convention in Atlanta, nations from around the world and key donors pledged more than $1 billion to energise the global fight to end this paralysing disease, including Rotary’s $50 million per year. Now we all have the important job of making good on those pledges.
All of this is why I ask you to contribute something to the polio campaign — whether it is a direct donation, fundraising in your community, or telling the polio story using the multiple platforms of today’s media. Also, be an advocate by writing to your government officials to ensure that they fulfill their pledges and maintain commitment, and reaching out to corporate leaders asking for their continued support of polio eradication. Write to me at Paul.Netzel@rotary.org to share what you are doing or your ideas for keeping polio at the top of our agenda. We need you as never before in our “countdown to history”.
Paul A Netzel
Foundation Trustee Chair