Rotary wants to ‘End Polio Now’

By: Jeannine LeJeune
CROWLEY – The push to eradicate the world of polio is on and Crowley Rotary and Rotary International are right in the center of it.

The Bill and Melinda Foundation recently made contributions totaling $355 million. In January 2009, Bill Gates announced the latest contribution to the charge to eradicate the world of polio.

Rotary pledged then to raise $200 million in matching funds within the next three years.

“We are making this grant and asking you to raise a total of $200 million by June 30, 2012, because we known eradication doesn’t come in an instant,” said Gates upon his contribution. “If we all have the fortitude to see this effort through to the end, then we will eradicate polio.”

The Crowley Rotary Club has taken this attempt to heart and is determined to raise $10,000 to put toward the End Polio Now program.

“The end is in sight,” said Dr. Thomas “Bo” McNeely, chair of the Crowley Rotary Club’s polio eradication committee. “It’s really an exciting moment with what is about to be given to the world.”

The club says it will not do a fundraiser, but is accepting donations that will be forwarded to the PolioPlus End Polio Now program.

“We’d love to have the public’s support and accept all prayers and donations,” said McNeely.

Anyone interested in making a contribution is asked to contact any Crowley Rotary Club member or to mail contributions to Crowley Rotary Club, P.O. Box 14, Crowley, 70527. Any checks should be made to Crowley Rotary Club with a notation for PolioPlus. All contributions are welcome, no donation is too small, remember only 60 cents pays for one vaccine.

In 1979, Rotary became involved with polio. The organization at that time committed to immunize six million children in the Philippines through a health, hunger and humanity grant form the Rotary Foundation.

Then PolioPlus came to be in 1985 after consultation with Dr. Albert S. Sabin, developer of the oral polio vaccine. This was part of Rotary’s polio-free world.

It also inspired the creation of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which is spearheaded by the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF, as well as Rotary International.

The push to end polio has hit its final stretch. Since 2006, only the countries of Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan are considered polio-endemic countries. This is thanks to remarkable progress that has been made in the fight.

When PolioPlus began, more than 350,000 children worldwide were infected annually by this crippling and often fatal disease.In 2008 fewer than 2,000 children were infected, a reduction of more than 99 percent.

Today 70 percent of the world’s population lives in polio-free countries. The Americas were declared free from polio in 1994, the Western Pacific region in 2000 and Europe in 2002.

These are signs that polio eradication is clearly within reach but there is still work to be done.

“We are on the threshold of eradication,” said McNeely, “after almost 25 years of work.

Polio, a highly infectious disease, still strikes children mainly under the age of five. Polio can cause paralysis and sometimes death. There is still no cure for polio, however it is preventable with the vaccine.

“As long as polio is anywhere in the world, it is a threat to everyone everywhere,” said McNeely.

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