Rotary focuses on club projects at meeting

By: Jeannine LeJeune
CROWLEY – While Rotary always enjoys spotlighting local groups, organizations and people, Tuesday’s meeting was a focus on the work the international club has played in the fight against polio.

Dr. Tina Stefanski with the Department of Health and Hospitals spoke to the club about the continued work toward ending polio in the world.

In 1985, the PolioPlus initiative began. Rotary International’s PolioPlus is labeled as the first and largest internationally coordinated private-sector support of a public health initiative, with an initial pledge of $120 million.

The initial goal was to eradicate the world of polio by 2000. They came close and now, in 2011, only four endemic countries remain–Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Nigeria.

In the 25 years of PolioPlus’ existance, the number of cases have decreased dramatically. In 1985, there were about 350,000 reported cases in 125 countries. Now, that number is way down. In 2010 there were only 1,292 cases reported.

“Rotary has had a great deal to do with this change,” said Stefanski.

Even the numbers in endemic countries are dropping considerably, particularly in the coutnries of Nigeria, Afghanistan and India, all of which reported less than 100 cases last year.

Rotary is not in the fight against polio alone, however. From the years 1985 to 2012, $9.l1 billion has been committed to the fight. The funding breaks down like this 43 percent comes from G8 countries, 22 percent from the private sector, 15 percent from domestic resources, 13 percent from the multilateral sector and 4 percent from other donor countries.

Rotary International’s contribution is a large portion, particularly in comparison, of the funding. Second only to the CDC and falling in the same area as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

At this year’s international conference, Bill Gates pledged to donate $350 million to the fight against polio if Rotary International would match his donation with a $200 million donation. The organization is over half way there and is pushing to reach the mark by the end of this club year.

The Crowley Rotary Club has long since been in the fight against polio, raising thousands of dollars each year since PolioPlus’ inception. Last year, with the help of donations from Youth ACT and Early ACT clubs associated with Crowley’s Rotary Club, the club donated $2,000.

Rotary International is pushing to “End Polio Now” as part of the movement to finish the effort because as long as its a possibility it can affect children from any country. That is why despite the fact that only four countries are labeled with the endemic status, cases do spring up elsewhere.

Stefanski pointed to a case where the country was polio-free for 10 years, but because efforts were pulled back to be focused elsewhere, a rise in cases occurred.

“It is a very interesting issue and I’d encourage everyone of you to read on it,” said Stefanski.

Rotarian Troy Breaux also spoke at the meeting about the Paul Harris Fellows program and the work it does with grants and PolioPlus as well. Breaux explained that members that donate $1,000 or more to Annual Programs Fund, PolioPlus or the Humanitarian Grants Program are given the designation of Paul Harris Fellows. Furthermore each member of Crowley’s Rotary Club is a sustaining member donating $100 per year through their donations.

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