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The fight to end polio is led by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which includes Rotary International, UNICEF, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and governments of the world, with the support of many others around the globe.
Rotary International’s involvement began in 1979 when Rotary clubs decided to take on a project to buy and deliver polio vaccine to more than six million children in the Philippines. Rotary International’s PolioPlus was launched in 1985, the first and largest internationally coordinated private-sector support of a public health initiative, with an initial pledge of US$120 million.
In 1988, Rotarians raised US$247 million for PolioPlus, more than double their fundraising goal of $120 million. The World Health Assembly passed a resolution to eradicate polio, setting up the launch of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. More than 125 countries are polio-endemic. The Western Hemisphere was declared polio-free in 1994.
The Rotary Foundation launched a 12-month campaign and was able to raise US$119 million from its membership in 2003. Bringing Rotary’s total contribution to polio eradication to over $500 million. During this time, there were only six countries left as polio-endemic – Afghanistan, Egypt, India, Niger, Nigeria, and Pakistan.
Rotary’s overall contribution to the eradication effort neared US$800 million in 2009. In January 2009, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pledged US$355 million and issued Rotary a challenge grant of US$200 million which became known as Rotary’s $200 Million Challenge. This announcement would result in a combined US$555 million in support of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
Rotary welcomed celebrities and other major public figures into its 2011 public awareness campaign and ambassador program called “This Close” to ending polio. Program ambassadors included Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Desmond Tutu, violinist Itzhak Perlman, golfer Jack Nicklaus, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, actor Jackie Chan, Grammy Award-winning singers Angelique Kidjo and Ziggy Marley, and environmentalist Dr. Jane Goodall. Rotary’s funding for polio eradication exceeded $1 billion.
Rotary surpassed its $200 Million Challenge fundraising goal more than five months earlier than planned in 2012. India surpassed an entire year without a recorded case of polio, and was taken off the polio endemic list.
Today, only three countries remain polio endemic.
For more information on Rotary’s role in ending Polio, please visit www.endpolio.org