Rotary Club of Belfast

Eradicating Polio


Think polio is a thing of the past? Not quite, but it will be…

Polio is a paralysing and potentially deadly disease, most commonly contracted by children under the age of five. The virus spreads from person to person, usually through contaminated water, and attacks the nervous system. Sadly, once contracted, there is no cure, therefore the prevention of this disease by vaccine is vital and will ensure its eradication. We are on the brink of making history and when it is eradicated Polio will be only the second human disease to be wiped from the globe.

Eradicating Polio

End PolioIn 1985 Rotary International pledged to rid the world of polio and since then has been at the heart of the fight. Polio was affecting 350,000 people, mostly children, across 125 countries every year - that's nearly 1000 per day. Rotary launched its Polio Plus programme aiming to start vaccinating children on a massive scale. Rotary was then joined by the World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and governments of the world in a Global Polio Eradication. Most recently the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have provided support by providing funds for the final push.

Today as a result of Rotary and its partners’ efforts:

  • 3 countriesRotary members have contributed more than $2.1 billion and countless volunteer hours vaccinating more than 2.5 billion children
  • the incidence of polio has plummeted by more than 99.9%
  • more than 18 million people are currently walking who otherwise would have been paralysed by the virus
  • Polio was rife in 125 countries today it is 2 - Pakistan and Afghanistan - and cases have remained at unprecedented low levels in recent years with 12 recorded in 2024 and 20 in 2023
  • one of three strains of the wild virus, has been eradicated worldwide so from April 2016 a new vaccine targeting the remaining strains is being used

Great strides have been made but there is a worrying increased trend with 14 cases recorded for the first 6 months of 2024 compared with 6 in 2023. Currently, Rotary and its partners immunize nearly 400m children every year mainly on National Immunisation Days. However, the job is not done and the fight isn’t over. The challenge to administer vaccines to every child is huge and the environment is hostile - the remaining 1% of polio cases are the most difficult to prevent as the virus persists in the hardest to reach areas with Pakistan the largest obstacle. In addition, there are still 5 countries that are at the greatest risk of polio returning and another 26 that could potentially experience re-infection.

Rotary, with its partners, are continuing the fight so the past doesn’t become the present or the future.
One of the greatest public health achievements in history – eradicating polio is tantalisingly close.

vaccine2Rotary in Action

More than 1 million Rotary members have donated their time and money to eradicate polio, and every year, hundreds of member’s 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.

Ensuring Success

vaccine1Governments, corporations and private donors all play a crucial role in funding. Rotary has committed to raising millions of dollars every year to provide much-needed operational support, medical workers, laboratory equipment, and educational materials. In 2007 the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation challenged Rotary to complete the project by matching their $100 million grant to End Polio Now and raise $100 million dollars in three years. In 2009 the Foundation allocated another $250 million, challenging Rotary to now raise $200 million by June 2012. This was met 5 months early with over $225m raised by June 2102 and in 2013 the Gates Foundation announced that they would be continuing to support the Campaign by matching 2:1 every dollar raised by Rotary. This critical funding helps ensure that children in at-risk countries are protected from polio and it is eliminated in the last two countries that continue to report cases.

Club Support

The Rotary Club of Belfast has a history of generous financial support for Foundation and the End Polio Now Campaign and remains committed to it. Fundraising efforts have covered a wide variety of facets including public collections, concerts, ballots for cars, sponsored water-skiing, filling 'smarties' tubes, mass planting of crocus corms in local communities and holding many Club fund-raising and social events.

ALargeAudience Harmony3 Crocus 21 Europa Tree
Club Awards

These contributions been recognised at District and International levels and the Club is honoured to have received these awards on behalf of all the members who made them possible. Thanks are due to all who have been involved.

Rotary Foundation Certificate of Appreciation 2022-23 in appreciation for the Club's financial support for End Polio Now with donations of $50 per capita
  2020-21 in appreciation for the Club's financial support for End Polio Now - "One of only 1,530 clubs to achieve Top Three Highest in Per Capita Annual Giving in their District"
  2016-17 in appreciation for the Club's financial support for End Polio Now - the Club again being the greatest contributor in District.
  2014-15  in appreciation of the Club's financial support of $5,180 for End Polio Now – one of only 8 presented in District 
  2009-10 in appreciation for the Club's financial support for End Polio Now
District Foundation Certificate  2010-11 in recognition of achieving District Club's target with a contribution in excess of $6,000  
Howard Caskie Foundation District Award   for the highest per capita contribution to The Rotary Foundation - with the equivalent of £283 per member
District Chris Croft Trophy 2010-11 for largest club contribution in RIBI to Rotary International's $200 End Polio Now Challenge with funds donated of $41,855.53 – this was 30,766.41 ahead of next District Club - Newtownabbey

for making the best effort in Foundation Service

60000 chequeThe Club's fundraising efforts for Polio resulted in a cheque for $60,000 (including the Gates Foundation Matching Funds) being handed over in 2009 to RIBI (Rotary in Great Britain & Ireland). RIBI President Ian Thomson was presented with a cheque for US$ 60,000, which, including the Gates Foundation matching funds, represented the total amount actually going to End Polio Now.

Picture shows from left: Past President (PP) Gordon Millington, President Courtenay,
RIBI President Ian Thompson, PP Marnette Lyons and PP Bryan Johnston.



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