Australia may not have had a polio case in more than a decade, but that hasn’t stopped it from continuing the fight to eradicate the disease.
With October 24 marking International Polio Day, the current worldwide levels of polio reflect a 99.9 per cent reduction from the 1980s, where there were as many as 1,000 cases per day.
This is partly due to the work of Rotary, which has contributed about $1.7 billion as part of its PolioPlus programme, which was launched in 1985.
Rotary Foundation director Peter Murfett said while they are close to achieving their goal, there is still work to be done.
“There are now only 12 known cases, so we have definitely come a long way,” he said.
“The World Health Organisation does not consider a country to be polio free until there have been no cases for three years, so there is still some time to go yet.
“People have asked what project we are going to raise funds for next, but we want to make sure we finish this one properly before we think about anything else.”
Poliomyelitis (polio) is a paralysing and potentially fatal disease that invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours.
It predominantly affects children under five and while incurable, is completely vaccine-preventable.
Australian accountant and the then Rotary International President Clem Renouf initially spearheaded the PolioPlus initiative, which has played a role in governments donating more than $7 billion to the cause.
Rotary has committed to raise $50 million per year over the next three years, with every dollar to be matched with two additional dollars from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
In Tasmania, the Rotary Club of Central Launceston (D 9830) has been one of the biggest contributors in the state to the programme, with the funds from its annual Christmas dinner going towards the Rotary Foundation.
On Monday, the club held a a hat day to raise funds for the Australian Rotary Health Foundation, which contributes to research on mental health in young people.
Source: The Examiner