As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to observe the World Polio Day (WPD) on Thursday, several activities have been planned by Rotary International in every region such as awareness walks, seminars, symposium and group discussions, to put an end to the crippling effects of polio.
In Chicago, where the humanitarian service organization was founded in 1905, Rotary and Northwestern University's Centre for Global Health will convene an international panel of experts to discuss the progress of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), which Rotary co-launch in 1988. The event, World Polio Day: Making History, will be streamed live to a global online audience at endpolionow.org from Northwestern University's John Hughes Auditorium, 303 E. Superior St., Chicago begining at 5:30 pm CST on the day.
This year, fundraisers will have greater impact due to the new fundraising campaign, End Polio Now: Make History Today, recently launched by Rotary and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The Gates Foundation will match two for one every new dollar Rotary commits to polio eradication up to US$35 million per year through 2018.
Rotary clubs in India plan a nationwide series of outdoor illuminations carrying Rotary's "End Polio Now" message on World Polio Day. In January, India will celebrate three years of no new polio cases, a huge milestones for a country once considered to harbour the most serious challenges to eradication.
Earlier, Rotary clubs in Lagos, Nigeria, under the leadership of PDG (Dr.) Tunji Funsho, Chairman Nigeria National Polio Plus Committee partnered with the Cycology Riding Club of Nigeria on a six-hour relay bicycle ride on the 19th of October to promote World Polio Day and the National Immunization rounds set for early November.
In 1988, Rotary helped launch the Global Polio Eradication Initiative with the WHO, UNICEF, and the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. Since then, Rotary club members worldwide have contributed more than $1.2 billion and countless volunteer hours to the polio eradication effort.
Overall, the annual number of new polio cases has plummeted by more than 99 per cent since the 1980s, when polio infected about 350,000 children a year. Only 223 new cases were recorded for all of 2012. More than two million children have been immunized in 122 countries, preventing five million cases of paralysis and 250,000 deaths.
Polio today remains endemic in only three countries, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, although imported cases in previously polio free areas such as the Horn of Africa will continue to occur until the virus is finally stopped in the endemic countries.