Fulfilling Our Promise:Eradicate Polio!
For the past four thousand years, the tiny poliovirus has killed and crippled millions of children. Today, we are on the threshold of eradicating poliomyelitis, a dreaded disease that historically has been the worlds greatest cause of disability. Eradication means that transmission of the poliovirus is totally stopped.Rotary is the leading private sector partner in this global cause, which is now the largest public health initiative in history. Rotarys commitment of $500 million and leadership of ten million volunteers has helped to reduce the number of cases by 99 percent in the period 1988-2000. Four million children who might have been polio victims are walking and playing normally. Through Rotarys efforts and those of its partners, nearly two billion children have received polio vaccine and have been protected from polio. As of January, 2002, however, the poliovirus still circulates in ten countries, and dozens more countries remain at high risk of polio importation. For every country, the virus is only a plane ride awayand a virus needs no visa! 90 percent of the laboratory-confirmed cases reported in the year 2001 occurred in these countries shown in redPakistan, India, and Nigeria. Here and in other countries we are in a race to reach the last child.
Three major challenges confront us. Continuing to achieve cease-fires so as to access children in areas of conflict. Maintaining political will to finish the job in the face of a rapidly disappearing disease. And, the greatest obstacle of all, ensuring funding to buy oral polio vaccine and get it to the children.
Since 1985, donations from governments and the private sector have totaled about $1.8 billion. Rotary has contributed a large share of this amount, and has made grants to 122 nations. In addition, Rotary is a leader in a global advocacy effort that has produced over $1 billion in contributions from governments.
Despite this generous outpouring, however, the World Health Organization and UNICEF estimate that $1 billion is needed in the four-year period 2002-2005 leading to the achievement of a polio-free world. $600 million of this amount is pledged or projected (yellow and green portions of bars). The funding gap (represented by the red portions in each bar) is $400 million, a gap that must now be filled. Each year of delay in reaching the last child can add more than $100 million to the total cost of the program.
The remaining polio-endemic countries include some of the worlds poorest countries. They need help in the final drive to defeat poliomoney to buy oral polio vaccine, to deliver it house-to-house, and to establish the surveillance systems that pinpoint the remaining pockets of the disease.
Polio eradication is Rotarys number one program priority, established by resolution of Rotarys global decision-making authority, the Council on Legislation. To achieve a polio-free world by the time of Rotarys 100th anniversary in 2005, the funding gap must be filled. Responding to this challenge, the board of directors of Rotary International and the Trustees of The Rotary Foundation have unanimously agreed to a new fundraising campaign, titled, Fulfilling Our Promise: Eradicate Polio! Our goal: $80 million!
In achieving this goal, each of Rotarys 30,000 clubs and 530 districts will set its own goal. The support of all Rotarians is needed, especially those men and women who have joined Rotary since the original PolioPlus Campaign of 1986-88. Because of the urgency of the need, cash donations are needed in the year of our campaign, although pledges of up to three years are welcome.
The key players in this campaign are the club president and the club Polio Eradication Campaign Committee. Setting the club goal, soliciting support from Rotarians, and sponsoring events that raise money and community awareness are their tasks. All other units of our global campaign structure are designed to help them succeed. Area coordinators, working under the leadership of the district Polio Eradication Campaign Committee, will support clubs efforts. The district committee will report club goals and achievements directly to one of 25 national Polio Eradication Campaign committees or, in some districts, to Polio Campaign International Coordinators.The campaign office will provide your clubs with public service announcements, news releases, displays, billboard designs, community fundraising ideas and other tools. The District Polio Eradication Campaign Committee will support your efforts, and area coordinators will be available to speak to your club and other community leaders.
Every dollar provides vaccine for ten children. Or helps to fund the logistics of delivery. Or helps to establish laboratories and train personnel who are vital not only to polio eradication but valuable in the fight against other infectious diseases. Money raised by Rotary and other private sector partners will be significantly multiplied through a new partnership. Through World Bank loans to help countries defeat polio, coupled with a $25 million challenge grant by the Gates Foundation, $1 in donations from Rotary and other private sector sources can deliver $5 of oral polio vaccine! Success in reaching our $80 million goal, coupled with government grants and World Bank help means that we can overcome the number one obstacle to victory over polio! The months between now and July 1, 2002, are a time to prepare for the campaign so that club and district goals can be set early. Advance gifts to the Polio Eradication Campaign will be accepted in the period April 1 through June 30. During Rotary year 2002-2003, our campaign will be in full development, accepting donations and pledges that can run up to 36 months.
Luis Fermin, Mum Chanty, and Melik Minas were the last cases in these three regions of the world, which are now polio-free. Polio vaccine came too late for them, but its not too late for future newborns. We must act now. We must not fail. Rotarians, said WHO Director General Brundtland, were the first with a vision of a polio-free world. We have an extraordinary challenge, yes. But Rotarians are extraordinary people. Together we can deliver on our promise: a world free of polio, a gift of love to children of all time.