On Oct. 24 we will celebrate the annual World Polio Day.
Some of you may have a connection with someone who had or still suffered from the consequences of this devastated disease. Some of you may ask “what is Polio” or “is it still around?” Here is an update!
Poliomyelitis, or polio, is a paralyzing and potential fatal disease that still threatens children in some parts of the world. Poliovirus invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis in hours. It can strike people of any age but mainly affects children under five. Polio can be prevented by vaccines, but it is not curable. Unlike most diseases, polio can be eradicated.
For more than 30 years, Rotary and its partners have driven the effort to eradicate polio worldwide. The PolioPlus program was the first initiative to tackle global polio eradication by vaccinating children on a massive scale. As a core partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI*), Rotary focuses on advocacy, fundraising, volunteer recruitment, and awareness-building.
*GPEI= Rotary International, World Health organization (WHO),UNICEF, US Centers for Disease Controland Prevention (CDC), The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,Gavi(the vaccine alliance).
Rotary members have contributed more than $2.2 billion and countless volunteer hours to protect nearly three billion children in 122 countries from this paralyzing disease. Rotary’s advocacy efforts have played a role in decisions by governments to contribute more than $10 billion to the effort.
The Rotary Club of Campbell River has been, since the start of the polio eradication program in 1988, an active participant in fundraising to support this effort. For the past eight years, the Rotary Club of Campbell River has raised funds for PolioPlus through different initiatives. The Pumpkins for Polio auctions have provided the majority of funds.
This year, the Pumpkins for Polio auctions will be held during the latter part of October. In addition to an in-house Rotary Club auction, there will be an online auction from Wednesday, Oct. 27 until Saturday, Oct. 30. The online Pumpkins for Polio auction will exhibit pumpkins and pumpkin-themed artworks created by members of the Campbell River Arts Council, First Nation carvers and other local artists. A link to the online auction can be found in the Rotary Club’s website: www. campbellriverrotarv.org. All funds raised for PolioPius will be double matched (2:1) by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
When Rotary and its partners formed the GPEI in 1988, there were 350,000 cases of polio in 125 countries every year. Today, we have reduced polio cases by 99.9 per cent, and just two countries continue to report cases of wild poliovirus: Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Because of the efforts of Rotary and its partners, nearly 19.4 million people who would otherwise have been paralyzed are walking, and more than 1.5 million people are alive who would otherwise have died. The infrastructure we helped build to end polio is also being used to treat and prevent other diseases (including COVID-19) and create lasting impact in other areas of public health.
Rotary and its partners have made tremendous progress against polio, but eliminating all cases is going to take even more progress and perseverance. Afghanistan and Pakistan face unique challenges, including political insecurity, highly mobile populations, difficult terrain, and, in some instances, vaccine refusal and misinformation. With sufficient resources, the commitment of national governments, and innovations that improve access to remote areas, we are optimistic that we can eliminate polio.
Rotary has committed to raising $50 million per year for polio eradication. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged to match that 2-to-1, for a total commitment of $150 million each year. These funds provide much-needed operational support, medical workers, laboratory equipment, and educational materials. Governments, corporations, and private donors all play a crucial role in funding.
Rotary in Action
More than one million Rotary members have donated their time and money to eradicate polio, and every year, hundreds of members work with health workers to vaccinate children in countries affected by polio. Rotary members work with UNICEF and other partners to prepare and distribute informational materials for people in areas that are isolated by conflict, geography, or poverty. They also mobilize to recruit fellow volunteers, assist in transporting the vaccine, and provide other logistical support.
Campbell River Rotary Club
As mentioned above, the Rotary Club of Campbell River and its members raisefunds throughout the year that go towards polio eradication, but the annual highlight is the Club’s Pumpkins for Polio auction fundraising. Rotary Club members hold an in-house pumpkin auction where members decorate, carve, or paint pumpkins which are auctioned off to fellow members at a weekly Rotary meeting. The public online auction, discussed above, gives the public an opportunity to contribute to PolioPlus by bidding on pumpkin-themed articles created by local artists. The online auction will take place from Wednesday, Oct. 27 until Saturday, Oct. 30 – log on to the Club’s website: www. campbellriverrotarv. org to learn more. Take your chance and get something special just in time for Halloween and at the same time support our efforts in eradicating polio throughout the world.
Together we can END POLIO NOW.
– Submitted by Gary Mclelan and Pieter Koeleman, Co-Chairs End Polio Now Committee, Rotary Club of Campbell River