When Rotary courageously stepped up to pursue the dream of a polio-free world, we knew realising our dream wouldn’t be easy. But since 1988, working with our partners, we’ve brought worldwide case counts down by 99.9 per cent.
However, it’s not over until it’s over. We’re going to keep up the funding and keep on the pressure until this fight is finished, and no child ever again has to experience the devastating effects of polio.
As we mark World Polio Day on October 24, we can take heart; we continue to make progress, and with the current low transmission rates of wild poliovirus in Afghanistan and Pakistan, we have a unique opportunity to interrupt transmission. We also have a new strategy and vaccine that will bolster our eradication efforts.
To eradicate wild poliovirus and stop outbreaks of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV), the Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s new strategy centres around several key areas: political advocacy to create greater urgency and accountability in the endemic and outbreak countries, improved engagement with high-risk communities, improved operations and polio surveillance, and the inclusion of polio immunisation in broader health programmes.
Along with our new strategy, Rotary and its partners are using a new tool, novel oral polio vaccine (nOPV2), to help address outbreaks of type 2 cVDPV. This new vaccine has been deployed in a growing list of countries and is a promising development in our quest to end polio once and for all. But there is still much work to be done. We need to remain strongly committed to our goals in the face of recent events in Afghanistan. As a nonpolitical organisation, Rotary will continue to do the work that is necessary to protect the health of children everywhere.
After all the progress we’ve made in our decades-long fight, the worst thing we could do is to become complacent, so here’s where you come in. Let’s double down on our commitment and keep raising $50 million each year for polio. Remember: Thanks to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, any contribution you or your Rotary or Rotaract club makes will be matched 2 to 1. In Rotary, we have always risen to challenges — and now it is more important than ever for us to rise again, with courage, to defeat polio.
John F Germ
Foundation Trustee Chair