The world’s campaign to eradicate polio is almost over in terms of two countries and just a handful of cases occuring there. But the fight is not over; the toughest battles in the hardest to reach locations remain.
In honor of World Polio Day on October 24, Vashon Island Rotary had a one-day fundraising project last October at Thriftway as part of Rotary’s 27-year mission to eradicate the crippling childhood disease polio. World Polio Day follows a succession of significant developments that have made 2015 one of the most important years in the history of the polio eradication initiative.
The next step was to help students at Chautauqua Elementary School understand polio and contribute in their own way to awareness and funding for vaccines. On November 19, the fourth and fifth graders learned about polio. For each $1 contribution, a student gets their pinkie finger painted purple…exactly what happens for vaccinated children in developing countries when immunization teams are in their community with free vaccines for all.
Since 1985, Rotary has contributed nearly $1.2 billion and countless volunteer hours to the protection of more than two billion children in 122 countries. The disease remains endemic in just two countries — Afghanistan and Pakistan — although other countries remain at risk for imported cases. Last year, India was declared polio free with no new reported cases for three years, and in August of this year, there were no reported cases of polio in the entire African continent for one year.
The message from Rotary to world leaders is clear: support the final push to achieve eradication now while the goal has never been closer, or face the potential consequences of a new polio pandemic that could disable millions of children within a decade.
One dollar pays for vaccine to immunize three children. As the PolioPlus campaign says, “We are this close!”