Eradicating Polio is Rotary's top priority and Rotary is committed to fighting Polio until every child is vaccinated and safe from this devastating disease.
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.
When Rotary began the fight in 1985, polio affected 350,000 people, mostly children, across 125 countries every year that's nearly 1000 per day. Since then as a result of Rotary and its partners efforts:
- more than 2 billion children have been vaccinated
- polio cases have dropped by 99% and
- almost 19 million people are walking today who would have otherwise been paralysed
most recently and very significantly
- WHO has declared that transmission of the wild poliovirus has officially been stopped in all 47 countries of its African region leaving only Pakistan and Afghanistan with cases of Polio
- 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
But the job is not done and fight isn't over polio still threatens children in Afghanistan and Pakistan with 173 cases reported in 2019 (Afghanistan 29 - Pakistan 144). This leaves other countries at risk from imported cases from there.
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 - but if we don't finish the fight right now and until polio is eradicated everywhere no non-vaccinated child is safe anywhere. If polio rebounds, more than 200,000 children worldwide could be paralysed by Polio each year within a decade and more than 10 million children under the age of five could be paralysed in the next 40 years - it is only a plane ride away.
The threat of polio anywhere is a threat to children everywhere.
How Rotary are doing it
In 1985, Rotary International launched Polio Plus, an ambitious programme to immunise the world's children against polio. Rotary's grassroots leadership, volunteer support and initial funding for vaccine provided the catalyst for the World Health Assembly's resolution in 1988 to eradicate polio worldwide. Spearheading partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative were Rotary International, the World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF though it is now also supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and governments of the world.
In 2007 the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation challenged Rotary to complete the project to match 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. The project was re-launched as the $200 Million Challenge to make the final push for total eradication. Each Club was challenged to raise funds each year with a target of $6,000. On January 17 2012 Rotary International announced that the Gates Foundation Challenge had been met 5 months early with $202.6m having been raised. By end June 2012 over $225m had been raised.
In Rotary Ireland District, $512,748.12 was raised which exceeded the target by $68,000. The Rotary Club of Belfast's contribution of $41,855.53 was the highest RIBI Club contribution to End Polio Now and this figure does not include the substantial funds of approx. $17,000 raised at the Charity Garden Party held in June 2012.
In 2013 the Gates Foundation announced that they would be continuing to support the Campaign by matching 2:1 every dollar raised by Rotary for the End Polio Now campaign. Bill Gates delivered the Richard Dimbelby Lecture 2013 and described the battle to eradicate polio as one of the most difficult tasks the world has ever faced. He revealed the fight against the disease was the project he dedicated most of his time to. He praised the work of Rotary International and vowed he was committed to doing whatever it takes to win this fight. He expressed the belief that with the necessary funds, political commitment, and resolve we would eradicate Polio. In January 2020 he announced a further extension for the next 3 years.
Rotary International members have also given countless hands-on volunteer hours to this critical effort. Sporting their signature yellow vests and caps, Rotarians from India and worldwide - including our own PP Marnette Lyons (shown left) work side-by-side health workers to vaccinate children in polio-affected countries and raise polio awareness. More here...
In April 2016 Michel Zaffran, the new Director of Polio Eradication for the World Health Organization, said "I would like to recognize the unique role that Rotary and Rotarians have played in this fantastic adventure. You had the vision as early as 1979 that this should be done and you convinced the rest of the world to move ahead and do it. "You have been there at the very beginning; you have been there all along. Don't give up now, we are so close, we've got the end in sight."
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 and many Club social events one such event being being the Charity Garden Party held in Hillsborough Castle June 2012. (click here for more details)
The Club continues to raise the profile of Rotary's fundraising to rid the world of Polio by supporting the Rotary International in Britain and Ireland's Crocus Campaigns.
'The world's greatest meal to help end Polio' came to Belfast on Tuesday 25 February 2014 at the Europa Hotel when The Rotary Club of Belfast hosted a Charity Breakfast attended by Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, Dame Mary Peters, 150 business men & women, Rotarians and guests. The Chief Constable Matt Baggot was the keynote speaker who commended the Club for raising the profile of this fantastic cause - more here.
In recent years the Club have supported RIBI's Purple4Polio crocus planting campaign when thousands of purple crocus bulbs are planted across the UK in the hope that they would all bloom on Rotary Day 23 February the following year. Most recently 500 bulbs each were given to Mitchell House School, Belfast and Harmony Community Trust, Strangford in autumn 2017 - photo left shows the flowers in bloom and being enjoyed by all.
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 January 2018 in appreciation for the Club's financial support of the End Polio Now. Make History Today Campaign.
- Rotary Foundation Certificate of Appreciation January 2016 for the Club's support of the 'End Polio Now' campaign – one of only 8 presented in District
- District Chris Croft Trophy 2011-12 for the largest contribution in RIBI to RI $200 End Polio Now Challenge
- District Foundation Certificate in recognition of achieving the target with a contribution in excess of $6,000 - January 2012
- Rotary Foundation Certificate of Appreciation for the support of the Challenge having contributed $40,000 - January 2011
- Howard Caskie Foundation District Award 2009-10 for the highest per capita contribution to The Rotary Foundation - equivalent of £283 per member - September 2010
- District Chris Croft Trophy 2008-09 for making the best effort in Foundation Service- September 2009 - Monies raised at that point meant that President Courtenay could, in 2009, present RIBI President Ian Thomson with a cheque for US$ 60,000, which, including the Gates Foundation matching funds, represented the total amount actually going to End Polio Now. Picture shows Past President (PP) Gordon Millington, President Courtenay, RIBI President Ian Thompson, PP Marnette Lyons and PP Bryan Johnston.