By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
News & Features Services)
Rotary International will highlight progress in the global effort to end polio on the occasion of the annual World Polio Day to be observed on October 24.
“World Polio Day 2013 provides a golden opportunity for Rotary and its partners to build public support for the historic final push now underway to wipe out this disabling viral disease once and for all,” Rotary International’s Pakistan PolioPlus Chair, Aziz Memon, remarked.
Chicago, where the
humanitarian service organization was founded in 1905, Rotary and ’s Center for Global Health
will convene an international panel of experts to discuss the progress of the
Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which Rotary co-launched in 1988. The
event, World Polio Day: Making History, will be streamed live to a global
online audience at endpolionow.org from Northwestern University’s John Hughes
Auditorium, 303 E. Superior St., Chicago, beginning at 5:30 pm. CST on October
24,” he disclosed. Northwestern University
The confirmed panelists included Dr Bruce Aylward, the world’s leading expert on polio eradication and assistant director-general for polio, emergencies and country collaboration at the World Health Organization; Dr. Robert Murphy, director of
’s Center for
Global Health; and U.S. Paralympian Dennis Ogbe, a polio survivor and
ambassador for the United Nations Foundation’s Shot@Life program. An executive
with Brown-Forman Co, Ogbe is originally from Northwestern
University Nigeria, one of only three
countries where the wild poliovirus has never been stopped.
Also invited is Emmy award-winning actress Archie Panjabi, one of Rotary’s End Polio Now celebrity ambassadors. In 2012, Panjabi helped Rotary volunteers immunize children in
India, where she spent part of her
childhood. Once considered the nation facing the most serious challenges to
was removed from the polio-endemic list in January 2012. If Panjabi is unable
to attend in person, the Chicago program will
include exclusive video of her work in India.
“This year, World Polio Day fundraisers will have greater impact due to the new fundraising campaign, End Polio Now: Make History Today, recently launched by Rotary and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Gates Foundation will match two for one every new dollar Rotary commits to polio eradication up to US$35 million per year through 2018,” Aziz Memon revealed.
“World Polio Day provides an important and timely opportunity for us to let the world know that every dollar contributed to Rotary for polio eradication will work three times as hard,” Dr Robert S. Scott, MD, Chair of Rotary’s PolioPlus programme, observed in his message.
“Rotary invites everyone, private citizens, businesses, non-profits, to join us in this historic effort. Only one other human disease (smallpox) has ever been beaten. Now is our best chance ever to make polio the second,” he stressed.
Rotary clubs in every region of the world have planned an array of activities on or leading up to World Polio Day.
Rotary clubs in
India planned a nationwide series
of outdoor illuminations carrying Rotary’s “End Polio Now” message on World
Polio Day. In January, India
will celebrate three years of no new polio cases, a huge milestone for a country
once considered to harbor the most serious challenges to eradication.
Scores of Rotary clubs worldwide working with local schools to organize Purple Clothes Days encouraged each student to wear a purple item of clothing and make a small donation to Rotary’s polio eradication program.
The concept began with Rotary clubs in
inspired by the purple dye that health workers in polio-affected countries
place on children’s pinky fingers to show they have received the oral polio
vaccine. Similarly, many Rotary clubs in England,
and elsewhere are selling fabric “purple crocus” lapel pins in support of polio
Rotary clubs will work with partnering agencies and the national government to
use World Polio Day to launch the next round of national polio immunization
activities in early November, a campaign deemed critical due to the recent
outbreak of imported cases throughout the Horn of Africa.
Rotary clubs in
be partnering with the Cycology Riding Club to do a six-hour relay bicycle ride
to promote World Polio Day and the national immunization rounds set for early
November. The event is reportedly Lagos,
Nigeria Nigeria’s first-ever bike-a-thon.
In partnership with UNICEF, Rotary clubs in
another polio-endemic country, on World Polio Day will begin distributing 5,000
copies of a 16-page “speaking book” that health workers and parents can use to
teach young children the importance of polio vaccinations and basic hygiene.
The audio version of the text is in the regional languages of Urdu and Pashto.
Rotary clubs are generating public support for polio eradication via the
crowd-speaking platform, Thunderclap, in a campaign that concludes on World
Historically, Rotary had helped launch the Global Polio Eradication Initiative with the WHO, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since then, Rotary club members worldwide have contributed more than $1.2 billion and countless volunteer hours to the polio eradication effort.
Overall, the annual number of new polio cases has plummeted by more than 99 percent since the 1980s, when polio infected about 350,000 children a year. Only 223 new cases were recorded for all of 2012. More than two billion children have been immunized in 122 countries, preventing five million cases of paralysis and 250,000 deaths. Polio today remains endemic in only three countries,
Nigeria and Pakistan,
although “imported” cases in previously polio-free areas, such as the Horn of
Africa, will continue to occur until the virus is finally stopped in the
Rotary is a global network of volunteer leaders dedicated to tackling the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges. Rotary’s 1.2 million members hail from more than 200 countries and geographical areas. Their work improves lives at both the local and international levels, from helping families in need in their own communities to working toward a polio-free world.