Since Rotary and its partners launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) over 30 years ago, the incidence of polio has plummeted by more than 99.99%, from about 350,000 cases a year in 125 countries to just 22 cases in 2017 and with just three remaining polio-endemic countries: Afghanistan; Pakistan; and Nigeria.
Whilst tremendous progress has been made, the final steps on any journey are often the some of the hardest and 2018 has been far from easy, with 14 cases in the first eight months of the year.
However, extensive global environmental sampling around the world has made highlighting and mobilising against threats to eradication easier, more targeted and often more effective.
This reemphasises the challenges facing the world in ensuring that polio becomes just the second human disease ever to be eradicated.
The end is very much in sight and Rotary has committed to raising US$150 million between 2017-20 in support of global eradication efforts.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will match Rotary’s commitment 2:1 so every £1 becomes raised £3. Without full funding and political commitment, this paralysing disease could return to previously polio-free countries, putting children everywhere at risk, including the UK.
Rotary has contributed more than US$1.8 billion to ending polio since 1985, including substantial contributions made by the Alresford Rotary Club.