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.
Mar 30, 2012

Rotary clubs light up the world to stop polio

Thalassini Pyli (Sea Gate) in Rhodes
Thalassini Pyli (Sea Gate) in Rhodes

EVANSTON, Ill. U.S.A. (Feb. 17, 2012) – In what has become a February tradition, community-based Rotary clubs once again illuminated landmarks and iconic structures around the world with the humanitarian group’s dramatic pledge to End Polio Now.

 This year’s round of light displays took on added significance due to the progress Rotary and its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative have made in India. In January, India -- until recently an epicenter of the crippling childhood disease -- reached a historic milestone by marking a full year without recording a single new case.

 Worldwide, fewer than 650 polio cases have been confirmed for 2011, less than half the 1,352 infections reported in 2010. Overall, the annual number of polio cases has plummeted by more than 99 percent since the initiative was launched in 1988, when polio infected about 350,000 children a year. More than two billion children have been immunized in 122 countries, preventing five million cases of paralysis and 250,000 deaths.

 India’s success sends a message of hope across the border to Pakistan, one of the last remaining polio-endemic countries (the others are Nigeria and Afghanistan). Fittingly, Pakistan Rotary clubs hosted two End Polio Now displays, one at historic Frere Hall in Karachi on Feb. 17-18 and the other at the distinctly modern WAPDA House in Lahore on Feb. 23-24.

 Other illumination sites this year included the 934-year-old Tower of London (Feb. 23); the City Government Building in Taipei, Taiwan (Feb. 23-25); Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, Tokyo’s fifth tallest building (Feb. 20); Melbourne’s Federation Square, one of southern Australia’s top tourist draws (Feb. 25-27); and two famous landmarks in Brazil – the historic Sitio Arqueológico de São Miguel das Missões in Rio Grande do Sul (Feb. 16), and the Palácio Garibaldi, a neo-classical architectural treasure in Curitiba (Feb. 23).

 “These global illuminations carry Rotary’s pledge to end polio—saying to the world that we will fight this crippling disease to the end,” says Rotary International President Kalyan Banerjee, a native of India. “But we are not there yet. Rotary and our partners will continue to immunize children until our goal of a polio-free world is achieved. And we must remain vigilant against a resurgence of this terrible disease.”

 Illustrating Banerjee’s point, teams of Rotary club members from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States went to India in February to volunteer with their Indian counterparts in massive immunization rounds that reached millions of children under age 5 with the oral polio vaccine. Many volunteers stayed for a Feb. 25-26 Polio Summit organized by Rotary International and the Indian Government.

 Rotary club members worldwide have contributed more than US$1 billion and countless volunteer hours to the polio eradication effort. In January, Rotary leaders announced Rotary clubs had raised more than $200 million in response to a $355 million challenge grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which in turn contributed an additional $50 million in recognition of Rotary’s commitment. All of the resulting $605 million will be spent in support of immunization activities in polio-affected countries.

Jan 12, 2012

Rotary celebrates India's first polio-free year

Last child who contracted polio in India
Last child who contracted polio in India

Rotary members worldwide are cautiously celebrating a major milestone in the global effort to eradicate the crippling disease polio: India, until recently an epicenter of the wild poliovirus, has gone a full calendar year without recording a new case.

Leaders of the humanitarian service organization see the Jan. 13 milestone as a testament to the determination of its international membership of 1.2 million – and especially the 116,000-plus Rotarians of India – to eradicate the infectious disease through the mass immunization of children, a goal Rotary took on 27 years ago.

“With the support of their Rotary brothers and sisters around the world, Indian Rotarians have worked diligently month after month, year after year, to help organize and carry out the National Immunization Days that reach millions of children with the oral polio vaccine,” said Rotary International President Kalyan Banerjee, of Vapi, India. “As an Indian, I am immensely proud of what Rotary has accomplished. However, we know this is not the end of our work. Rotary and our partners must continue to immunize children in India and in other countries until the goal of a polio-free world is finally achieved.”

Deepak Kapur, of New Delhi, who chairs Rotary’s polio eradication program in India, also credits the Indian Health Ministry for its commitment to the effort. To date, the Indian government has spent more than $1.2 billion on domestic polio eradication activities. “Government support is crucial if we are to defeat polio, and we are fortunate that our government is our biggest advocate in this effort,” Kapur said.

“Marching ahead, the goal now is to sustain this momentum,” he added, describing as potentially “decisive” the upcoming immunization rounds in January, February, and March, which aim to vaccinate 174 million children against polio.

If all ongoing testing for polio cases through Jan. 13 continues to yield negative results, India will be declared by the World Health Organization to have interrupted transmission of indigenous wild poliovirus, laying the groundwork for its removal from the polio-endemic countries list which it now shares with Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria. However, other countries remain at risk for cases imported from the endemic countries, which is why immunizations in India and other endemic and at-risk countries must continue. Neighboring Pakistan, which has reported 181 cases so far for 2011, is a major threat to India’s continued polio-free status. In 2011, a polio outbreak in China, polio-free for a decade, was traced genetically to Pakistan.

Rotary launched its polio eradication program in 1985 and in 1988 became a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since then, the incidence of polio has plummeted by more than 99 percent, from more than 350,000 cases a year to only 604 reported so far for 2011. The 12-month milestone in India – where the last reported case was a two-year-old girl in West Bengal on Jan. 13, 2011 -- continues the progress of 2010, when the country recorded only 42 polio cases out of 1,352 worldwide.

In addition to raising awareness and advocating within the public and private sectors on behalf of the cause, Rotary members to date have contributed more than $1 billion in support of polio eradication. In all, about $136.67 million in Rotary money has funded polio eradication work in India via grants to WHO and UNICEF.  Indian Rotary members have raised more than $11.6 million to fight polio, and Rotary clubs worldwide currently are closing in on a $200 million fundraising milestone in response to a $355 million challenge grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which also identifies polio eradication as a top priority.

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. Rotary’s top priority is the global eradication of polio. 

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Oct 26, 2011

Rotarians organize in support of World Polio Day

Rotarians spread the word about World Polio Day
Rotarians spread the word about World Polio Day

Rotarians around the globe organized events to raise polio eradication awareness and funding for World Polio Day on 24 October.

Australian club members are working with the Global Poverty Project on a petition drive aimed at persuading world leaders to fully fund the critical work of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). Supporters can sign the petition online.

The Global Poverty Project has scheduled an End of Polio Concert on 28 October to coincide with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, Australia. Rotarians have joined with the group to lobby leaders to put polio eradication on the meeting agenda. Hugh Evans, cofounder and CEO of the Global Poverty Project, is a scheduled speaker at the 2012 Rotary International Convention in Bangkok, Thailand, in May.

"Global collaboration has ensured that eradication is within reach," says Michael Sheldrick, the group's polio campaign manager and a member of the Rotary Club of Crawley, Western Australia. "Our generation has a chance to realize a historic opportunity and ensure that no one else ever has to fear this disease. That’s why it’s vital we commit to finish the job."

A few of the many events planned around World Polio Day are these:

  • Rotarians in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, are organizing a Walk to End Polio Now, aimed at drawing 4,000 participants and raising money for Rotary's $200 Million Challenge to match $355 million in grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in support of polio eradication.
  • The Rotary Club of Venezia-Riviera del Brenta, Italy, has organized a Run to End Polio fundraiser as part of the 23 October Venice Marathon.
  • Rotary, Rotaract, and Interact clubs in Canada and the United States are coordinating a Wake Up Across the Continent polio awareness initiative during the week of 24-28 October. Each club is encouraged to participate and to publicize its activities, share ideas, and post images on Facebook.
  • Rotarians in Finland will conduct a "This Close" campaign with ads in print, on television, and online 24-28 October, and they plan a fundraiser on World Polio Day.

Rotary and its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative continue to make progress in their efforts to rid the world of polio. The polio case count for 2011 stands at almost half the total number of cases reported at the same time in 2010.

Year to date 2010: 732

Year to date 2011: 467

India continues to experience strong progress in their efforts to interrupt transmission of polio this year.  More than 9 months have passed since the last polio case (13 January).

Thank you once again for your generosity as we work to “End Polio Now.”  Your support will help us to rid the world of this dreaded disease once and for all.

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