End Polio Now
End Polio Now is Rotary’s massive effort to eradicate poliomyelitis from the world by 2005. It was launched in 1985 with the goal of raising US$120 million to immunize the developing world’s children against polio for five years. The PolioPlus fundraising campaign that concluded in 1988 raised a record US$220 million, and by 2005, Rotarians’ contributions to the global polio-eradication effort will approach US$425 million. Of even greater significance has been the huge volunteer army mobilized by Rotary International. Hundreds of thousands of volunteers at the local level are providing support at clinics or mobilizing their communities for immunization or polio-eradication activities.
In 1988, Rotary joined the World Health Assembly in committing itself to the eradication of polio by 2005, Rotary’s 100th anniversary. Rotary works with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, national governments and others in the global Polio Eradication Initiative, the world’s most extensive public/private health undertaking. By 1998, some 120 nations around the world had benefited from End Polio Now grants for polio immunization and eradication efforts, and thanks to the immunization efforts during the decade after 1988, as many as four million children who might have been polio victims were walking and playing normally. As a result of the efforts of Rotary International and its partners, more than one billion children have received oral polio vaccine and are protected from poliomyelitis. In 1994 Rotary helped celebrate the elimination of polio from the Western Hemisphere. The Western Pacific is on its way to being certified as polio-free, and efforts are now focused on Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. Polio can be eradicated for as little as US$0.50 worth of vaccine per child.
Achieving eradication will be difficult (only one other disease, smallpox, has ever been eradicated) and expensive (estimated cost to the international community is nearly US$2 billion). It requires National Immunization Days to immunize all of a polio-endemic country’s children under the age of five, continuing routine immunization of children worldwide, systematic reporting of all suspected cases, rapid response to outbreaks, and establishment of laboratory networks.
No other non-governmental organization has ever made a commitment of the scale of End Polio Now campaign. It may be considered the greatest humanitarian service the world has ever seen. Every Rotarian can share the pride of that achievement.
The Rotary Club of Madison shares in the pride felt by many Rotarians who have not only helped to fund the End Polio Now program but also became personally involved. In 1999 several members of the Rotary Club of Madison and members from Rotary District 6250 joined with Rotarians from across the world at a National Immunization Day in India. There they spent several days administering polio vaccines to the local children and learning about the Indian culture. When they returned they shared their experiences with fellow Rotarians. An experience they will not soon forget.