The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International

Rotary is a volunteer organization of 1.2 million business, professional and community leaders united worldwide to provide humanitarian service. The mission is to enable Rotary's members to advance world understanding, goodwill and peace through the improvement of health, the support of education and the alleviation of poverty. Rotarians lead service programs in their communities and abroad that address today's most pressing challenges while encouraging high ethical standards in their vocations.
Feb 22, 2013

Rotary and Partners "This Close" to Ending Polio

Celebrity PSY joins Rotary
Celebrity PSY joins Rotary's 'This Close' Campaign

Rotary International’s innovative campaign to develop the World’s Biggest Commercial to raise public awareness about polio eradication has struck a chord with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

To help spur participation in the commercial, the largest pharmaceutical trade group in the United States has donated $50,000 to Rotary’s PolioPlus program – enough to provide oral vaccine to protect more than 83,000 children against this paralyzing disease.

Participants in the World’s Biggest Commercial simply upload photos of themselves making the “this close” gesture with their fingers – as in, “We are this close to ending polio” – to the ever-expanding promotional spot at Rotary’s End Polio Now website. In doing so, they’ll rub “virtual shoulders” with such celebrities and notables as Bill Gates, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Jane Goodall, Amanda Peet, Jack Nicklaus, Jackie Chan, PSY and other high-profile Rotary Ambassadors for Polio Eradication.

Since launching the campaign on World Polio Day (Oct. 24, 2012), more than 4,500 people in over 116 countries have joined the online initiative by adding their names and photos to the World’s Biggest Commercial. Beginning February 1, highlights from the “The World’s Biggest Commercial” will air in Times Square, one of the world’s busiest locations.

“Rotary International’s effort to end polio is seen as one of the world’s greatest public health advances,” said John Castellani, President and CEO of PhRMA. “PhRMA and its members are pleased to have played a part in supporting Rotary in the effort to eradicate polio.”

 Castellani said he also encourages PhRMA employees and PhRMA member companies to participate in the World’s Biggest Commercial.

 In addition to helping Rotary set a new Guinness World Record, every person who joins the commercial can choose to add their name to a petition urging the world’s governments to provide the $5.5 billion needed to finish the job and end polio forever.

Rotary launched PolioPlus in 1985, and in 1988 became a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, now led by Rotary, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the U.S. Centers for disease Control and Prevention and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Since then, more than 2.5 billion children have received the oral polio vaccine, and the incidence of polio has plummeted by more than 99 percent. Fewer than 300 cases were reported worldwide in 2012, down from 350,000 annually in the 1980s.  Today, polio remains endemic to only three countries: Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.  However, experts warn that if the eradication initiative falls short, polio could rebound rapidly, affecting more than 200,000 children every year.

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Dec 5, 2012

Pakistan makes progress in the fight against polio

SITE Town Polio Resource Center in Pakistan
SITE Town Polio Resource Center in Pakistan

Pakistan is one of three countries worldwide where the wild polio virus still circulates, but Rotarians are doing their part to change that and it appears these efforts are beginning to pay off. Last year, a total of 198 polio cases were reported in Pakistan, but so far in 2012 only 56 have been reported. Rotary’s National PolioPlus Committee in Pakistan, led by their chair Aziz Memon, has helped with the establishment of polio resource centers in four areas at high-risk for the disease, including Karachi, Sindh; Killa Abdullah and Pashin, Balochistan; and Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In addition to ensuring that children get immunized against polio, the resource centers also provide much needed basic health services to these underserved communities. The first center was inaugurated at Bright Education Society in Sindh Industrial Training Estate (SITE) Town and consists of two full-time doctors for general health care and six social mobilizers to speak with families who have refused the polio vaccine for their child.  In many cases, access is limited in these areas due to security and so having a local center allows health workers to reach these families in spite of security challenges.   

Rotarians in Pakistan are also conducting health camps, establishing permanent immunizations sites at local hospitals, and seeking the support of community leaders for polio eradication.  As part of this effort, they have teamed up with partner organizations like Coca Cola Beverages Pakistan who provide access to billboards to help raise awareness about polio eradication, and transport for vaccines along with support for a range of other projects.  “We are seeing progress in Pakistan’s fight against polio, and we are proud of the work our Rotarians are doing to support that effort,” wrote John Germ, vice chair of Rotary’s International PolioPlus Committee.  With these sustained efforts, we are hopeful that Pakistan will soon wipe out this dreaded disease within its borders, moving us ever closer to delivering on our promise of a polio-free world.

Polio Resource Centers in Pakistan
Polio Resource Centers in Pakistan

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Sep 12, 2012

Rotary challenges governments to target polio

Rotary is "this close" from eradicating polio.
Rotary is "this close" from eradicating polio.

Ahead of the UN General Assembly, Evanston-based humanitarian group holds strategy session with members from around the world including Pakistan and Nigeria

Rotary International aims to send a clear message to the United Nations (UN) General Assembly convening in September in New York: The world’s governments must act swiftly and decisively if the crippling childhood disease polio is to finally be eradicated.

To that end, about 50 Rotary leaders from a dozen countries met on Aug. 21-22 at the humanitarian group’s world headquarters in Evanston, Ill., to devise strategies on how to persuade the international community to ante up the resources required to beat polio once and for all. Polio eradication has been Rotary’s top priority since the 1980s.

The group included Rotary leaders from Pakistan and Nigeria, two of the three countries where polio remains endemic (the third is Afghanistan). Participants will return to their homelands armed with the tools they need to advocate on behalf of polio eradication at all levels of government and society.

The focus then shifts to New York, where Rotary leaders will attend a UN General Assembly breakout session on Sept. 27, where UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expected to issue a strong call-to-action urging UN member states to ramp up their support for polio eradication.  Rotary will join a group of national leaders and other donors, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in what is expected to be a round of announcements on commitments.

The urgency at the UN stems from action taken in May by the World Health Assembly, which declared polio eradication to be a “programmatic emergency for global public health.” Although new polio cases are at an all-time low – fewer than 120 worldwide so far this year – the eradication initiative faces a funding shortfall of nearly $1 billion that could derail the entire program. If eradication fails and polio rebounds, up to 250,000 children a year could be paralyzed.

Polio cases have plummeted by more than 99 percent since 1988, when Rotary partnered with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to launch the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.When the initiative began, polio infected about 350,000 children a year, compared with fewer than 700 for all of 2011.

 Rotary’s chief responsibilities are fundraising – to date, Rotary clubs worldwide have contributed nearly $1.2 billion  – and advocacy, a role of increasing importance as the end game draws near. Earlier this year, Rotary surpassed $200 million in new money for polio eradication in response to a $355 million challenge grant from the Gates Foundation, which promptly contributed an additional $50 million in recognition of Rotary’s commitment.

Rotary is a global humanitarian organization with more than 1.2 million members in 34,000 Rotary clubs in over 200 countries and geographical areas. Rotary members are men and women who are business, professional and community leaders with a shared commitment to make the world a better place through humanitarian service.

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