Polio Eradication Update

© Rotary International/Alyce Henson

© Rotary International/Alyce Henson

Rotary and Polio Eradication – A Global Report for 2014

By January 2014, new cases of paralytic polio had fallen annually from 350,000 in the 1990’s to an all-time low, and the disease remained endemic in only three countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.

However, by May/June 2014 the good news had been savagely reversed by outbreaks of paralysis across equatorial Africa from Cameroun to Somalia as virus was “exported” from Nigeria. There were outbreaks in Syria and in Somali refugee camps in Kenya plus an upsurge in remote parts of Pakistan. While the virus remains endemic in three countries, export to areas where vaccination levels cannot be maintained remains a constant threat.

The instant response to increased paralysis rates was an aggressive campaign in the so-called “outbreak” countries in Africa where over 60 million doses of vaccine were used. Successful efforts to win hearts and minds in Nigeria, and particularly Pakistan, to overcome local suspicion and even violence achieved substantially increased vaccination rates.

Now in early 2015 the good news, the very good news, is that no new cases have been reported from Nigeria for seven months and all the exported outbreaks have been wiped out.

Pakistan is now seen as the key to ultimate success. But as the high season for virus transmission begins public health experts remain optimistic that global virus transmission can be stopped in 2015 and that the world could be declared polio free after three years without any new cases by the end of 2018.

Since PolioPlus (the Rotary global contribution to polio eradication) was set up in 1985 Rotarians have raised $1.3 billion US and given millions of volunteer hours. We will carry on fundraising helped by a very generous offer from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to match every Rotary dollar two to one up to an annual total of $35 million. This means that for every £1 we raise from an ever generous British public that £3 will arrive at the sharp end. At current costs £3 will buy six doses of vaccine to protect babies and small children from a lifetime spent in leg braces and on crutches.

We can’t possibly stop now and look to your continued and very generous support.

John Fisher

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