In 1985, Rotary International promised every child a world free from the threat of polio. Since then, the number of countries that continue to be polio endemic has declined from over 125 to just three.
It hasn't been easy. Rotary and its partners will have invested over $1.2 billion in the effort. And that doesn't include the money spent by individual Rotarians in travel and the value of time spent to inoculate children in those nations.
But all that money and all the time will be wasted if we don't complete the task of eradicating polio in the three remaining nations -- Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria now.
Since 2003, polio virus outbreaks have spread to 27 previously polio-free countries. In 2013, the polio virus was found in a Kenya refugee camp and in Somalia, countries previously declared free of polio. Thankfully, most outbreaks are stopped. But the fact remains, so long as polio virus exists any place in the world, it is a threat to every nation in the world. In a global economy, polio is only a plane ride away.
The eradication of polio remains urgent! As Bill Gates said, in announcing the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's challenge grant, "[Rotary has] to keep all these immunizations going as long as there’s any of the disease spreading within a region. We’re pretty close to the end on polio. Time makes so much difference."
What polio does:
Polio Facts And Figures
What is Polio?
Polio is the shortened name of poliomyelitis which is the crippling disease caused by the poliovirus. One in 200 cases result in paralysis, which leads to the limbs of the victim becoming limp and disfigured. Among those paralyzed, 5-10% die when their breathing muscles become immobilized.
The poliovirus can strike at any age, but affects mainly children under five years of age. It is passed through person-to-person contact. The virus enters the body through the mouth and multiplies in the intestine. Initial symptoms are fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, and stiffness in the neck and pain in the limbs.
Polio knows no borders and carriers frequently move from one country to another. Therefore, the virus can reappear in previously polio free countries. In 2007 there were cases of polio in nine African countries, although polio is only endemic in one of them.
There are still polio victims living in our communities – they have stories to tell.
Polio is only a plane ride away from the United States.