Who are your Rotary heroes? One of mine was Clem Renouf, 1978–79 RI president. I related to Sir Clem, who died in 2020, in many ways. We shared the same profession and Australian nationality and a passion for polio eradication. It was Clem’s leadership that first put us on track to embrace the cause, mobilising what is today a global partnership that has led us to the cusp of eradicating a human disease for only the second time in history.
What Rotary and its partners have achieved is nothing short of remarkable. We have helped reduce polio cases by 99.9 per cent worldwide, immunising more than 2 billion children across 122 countries. Last year alone, more than 370 million children were vaccinated across 30 countries, using more than 1 billion doses of oral polio vaccine. As a result, we are seeing near historic lows in the number of cases. In August 2020, the World Health Organisation certified the African region free of wild poliovirus, an incredible achievement for Rotary members and a huge step on the road to eradication.
But remember that as long as polio exists anywhere, it is a threat to people everywhere, especially to young children. You may have heard about importations of the disease to Malawi and Mozambique, detection of poliovirus in sewage in the UK, and a recent case in the US.
To stay agile, Rotary and its partners are deploying a new polio vaccine, novel oral polio vaccine type 2 (nOPV2), to fight outbreaks of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus, also known as variant poliovirus, which continues to threaten children in Africa, as well as several countries in Asia and the Middle East, including Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Rotary is as active as ever. We are calling on every member to take action and be part of this historic fight. Take the fight to your clubs and communities on World Polio Day, October 24. Keep raising awareness of the importance of polio eradication and Rotary’s critical role in that effort by holding events and fundraisers. Don’t forget that contributions toward the goal of $50 million per year for polio eradication will be matched 2-to-1 by our generous partner, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Like Sir Clem, we can all be Rotary heroes, each playing a part in our organisation’s great legacy. Through giving, raising awareness and funds, and providing hands-on service, each of us brings Rotary a step closer to fulfilling our promise to the children of the world by eradicating polio for good.
Ian H S Riseley
Foundation Trustee Chair