Posted on Oct 13, 2017
Poliomyelitis known as polio is an infectious disease caused by the polio virus. The polio virus invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours.
Polio mainly affects children under the age of five. Although polio is incurable, it is completely vaccine-preventable. Sadly, this paralyzing and potentially fatal disease still threatens children in some parts of the world.
The first efficient attempts to fight the virus were made by Jonas Salk, who led the first team to develop a vaccine against poliomyelitis in 1955. The use of Salk’s vaccine and subsequent use of the oral polio virus, developed by Albert Sabin, helped saved thousands of children and led to the establishment of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988.
October 24 of every year is the “World Polio Day” set aside by Rotary International over a decade ago in observance of polio eradication initiatives. The choice of date was established to commemorate the birth of Jonas Salk.
Rotary launched PolioPlus in 1985 and spearheaded the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which today includes the World Health Organization, U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to immunize the children of the world against polio.
In 2007, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation joined Rotary in its commitment to end polio. Since 2013, the Gates Foundation has matched every $1 Rotary commits to polio eradication 2-to-1, up to $35 million per year.
Since Rotary and its partners launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative 29 years ago, the incidence of polio has plummeted by more than 99.9 percent, from about 350,000 cases a year to just 37 cases in 2016.
The polio cases represented by the remaining one percent are the most difficult to prevent, due to factors including geographical isolation, poor public infrastructure, armed conflict and cultural barriers. Until polio is eradicated, all countries remain at risk of outbreaks.
Rotarians in Rotary International, District 9110, Nigeria are among millions reaching out on World Polio Day to raise awareness, funds and support to end polio – a vaccine preventable disease that still threatens children in parts of the world today. 
To sustain this progress, and further protect all children from polio, Rotary has committed to raising US$50 million per year over the next three years -an additional $150 million, which, if realized, will be tripled by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for a total of up to $450 million.
These funds help to provide much-needed operational support, medical personnel, laboratory equipment, and educational materials for health workers and parents. Governments, corporations and private individuals all play a crucial role in funding.
In 1985, Rotary launched its PolioPlus programme, the first initiative to tackle global polio eradication through the mass vaccination of children. Rotary has contributed more than $1.7 billion and countless volunteer hours to immunize more than 2.5 billion children in 122 countries.
In addition, Rotary’s advocacy efforts have played a role in decisions by donor governments to contribute more than $7.2 billion to the effort. Without full funding and political commitment, this paralyzing disease could return to previously polio-free countries, putting children everywhere at risk.
Rotarians have played a key role in bringing the world to the brink of polio eradication. Their efforts have not only ended polio in 122 countries, but also created a system for tackling a myriad of other health priorities.
Rotarians in Rotary International, District 9110, Nigeria are among millions reaching out on World Polio Day to raise awareness, funds and support to end polio – a vaccine preventable disease that still threatens children in parts of the world today. 
In 2011, 2012, and 2013, India witnessed three straight years without a new case caused by the wild polio virus, and in 2014, the World Health Organization certified the South-East Asia region, including India polio-free.
In 2013, Polio outbreaks in Central Africa and the Middle East paralysed hundreds of children. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) developed strategies to deliver vaccines and stop the virus, even when access seemed impossible. All three of these outbreaks were put to an end just a year later.
Nigeria was on the verge of making history, following the disappearance of polio for two years (2014 & 2015) and just when Nigerians were about to start celebrating its exit, the deadly polio virus struck again in 2016, attacking four children in the insecure and inaccessible areas of Borno state.
GPEI is constantly developing new strategies to put an end to polio in the remaining polio endemic countries- Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. The world however, stands on the threshold of eradicating the disease.
More than one million Rotary members have donated their time and personal resources to end polio. Every year, hundreds of Rotary members work side-by-side with health workers to vaccinate children in polio-affected countries.
Rotary members work with UNICEF and other partners to prepare and distribute mass communication tools to reach people in areas isolated by conflict, geography, or poverty. Rotary members also recruit fellow volunteers, assist with transporting the vaccine, and provide other logistical support.
Rotary has a growing roster of public figures and celebrities participating in its “This Close” public awareness campaign, including Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; actresses Kristen Bell and Archie Panjabi; WWE superstar John Cena; supermodel Isabeli Fontana; Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.
Others include action movie star Jackie Chan; boxing great Manny Pacquiao; pop star Psy; golf legend Jack Nicklaus; conservationist Jane Goodall; premier violinist Itzhak Perlman; Grammy Award winners A.R. Rahman; Angelique Kidjo and Ziggy Marley; and peace advocate Queen Noor of Jordan.
These ambassadors help educate the public about polio through public service announcements, social media and public appearances.