Friday, 4 November 2011

We are "This Close" to ending Polio

Ending Polio

Many people of a certain age will remember all too vividly the impact that Poliomyelitis had on friends and family members.  As a reminder Poliomyelitis or polio is an acute viral infectious disease.  It is spread through overcrowded, unclean conditions, and improper sanitation of waste fluids. During the early 20th century polio devastated many populations around the world.  Until the mid 1950’s there was no readily available vaccine against this crippling disease.  It took several years for it to be eradicated from the industrial world.  Indeed there were significant outbreaks recorded in Coventry & Hull in 1957 & 1960.  In 1963 the oral vaccine was developed and polio is now rare in first world countries.   It was however only finally eradicated from the whole of Europe in 2002.

It took longer for polio to be recognised as a severe problem in developing countries.  However, "lameness surveys" during the 1970s revealed that the disease was frequent, crippling thousands of children every year. Routine immunisation was introduced worldwide, helping to control the disease.

In 1985 Rotarians decided that the eradication Polio would be a task they would take on for the people of the world.  Smallpox had been eradicated in the early 60’s so why not Polio.

Rotary has led the private sector in the global effort to rid the world of this crippling disease. Today, PolioPlus and its role in the initiative is recognized worldwide as a model of public-private cooperation in pursuit of a humanitarian goal.   As part of this PolioPlus initiative Rotarians, including those in the Carlisle area, regularly take part in National Immunisation Days, mainly in India but also in Pakistan and parts of Africa.  Working with local Rotarians they help ensure that every child of 5 years or younger receives the Polio Vaccine twice a year.  In a city of 8m people like Bangalore which a team from our area visited in 2010, this is an immense logistical task and it was a privilege for us to take part.

In addition to providing financial and volunteer support, Rotary works to urge support from other public and private sector partners. This includes the campaign to End Polio Now, inspired by the extraordinary challenge grants received from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.   They have provided some $300m over recent years provided that Rotarians provided a further $200m.  We have $190m collected already and have until June 2012 to collect the rest – and we will.

When Rotary launched its push to end polio in the 1980s, the wild poliovirus crippled nearly 1,000 people every day. Since then, Rotary and its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative have reduced the incidence of polio by 99-percent. And the push continues: This year, India has the lowest number of polio cases in history. We are “this close” to ending polio once and for all.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Kevin, brilliant article on the EndPolioNow campaign - great to connect with you here as well!