Some of you might remember the “iron lungs” of the 1950’s. Thankfully, that’s just a memory for most, but there’s still work to do before polio can be totally eradicated.
When was the last time there was polio in Europe? If you guessed 2002, the year the region was certified polio-free, you were wrong. The last time polio affected a child in Europe was last summer. In 2015, two Ukrainian children were diagnosed with paralytic polio, and, given the way the disease manifests itself, that means many more were likely infected and didn’t show symptoms. At least one Western news outlet deemed the outbreak “crazy” – but the reality is that no place on earth is safe from polio until the disease is eradicated everywhere.
To find the patients who don’t present symptoms or don’t make it to a clinic, Rotary and its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) – the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – have set up environmental sampling in the areas that are most susceptible to the disease. Fifteen to 20 countries are still at high risk despite having eradicated the illness.
We are so close.
In 1985 polio was found in 125 endemic countries, causing 350,000 children to become paralyzed and resulting in 50,000 deaths from the disease per year. After Rotary’s 32 year effort, with help from CDC, Unicef, WHO, more than 125 participating nations, private donors and raising collectively over $12.2 Billion Dollars, the polio virus is found in just three remaining countries with 38 cases of polio worldwide in 2016.
"We’ve got a 99.9 percent reduction in polio. But we’re not there yet,” says John Sever,a vice chair of Rotary’s International PolioPlus Committee, who has been part of the eradication effort since the beginning. “Rotarians and others have to keep working. People will naturally say, ‘Well, it seems to be basically gone so let’s move on to other things,’ but the fact is it isn’t gone, and if we move on and don’t complete the job, we set ourselves up for having the disease come right back.”
Following the last case of paralysis from polio, the world must be polio free for at least three years to certify the world polio-free. The cost for this three year “Countdown to Zero” has been established at an additional $1.2 Billion Dollars, worldwide. Rotary’s challenge from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is to raise $50 Million per year for three years. The Gates Foundation will match each Rotary dollar with two dollars, making a $1 dollar contribution grow to $3 dollars. This Gates Challenge and Rotary's contribution will account for $450 Million (nearly one third) of the $1.2 Billion dollar worldwide effort.
Help fund the Final Mile!
Join Miss Vicky’s epic 10,000 mile trek by 'pleging' to Polio Plus.
Bronze: 1 cent/mile = $ 100.00
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Or, mail a check payable to PolioPlus to:
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c/o Miss Vicky 4 Polio Plus
PO Box 3592
Arlington, WA 98223
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