Polio Challenge

Polio is:

A crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease, polio (poliomyelitis) still strikes children mainly under the age of five in countries in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

  • Polio can cause paralysis and sometimes death.  Because there is no cure for polio, the best protection is prevention. For as little as US$0.60 worth of vaccine, a child can be protected against this crippling disease for life.   
  • It can cause paralysis within hours, and polio paralysis is almost always irreversible. 
  • In the most severe cases, polio attacks the motor neurons of the brain stem, causing breathing difficulty or even death.
  • Historically, polio has been the world's greatest cause of disability.

If polio isn't eradicated, the world will continue to live under the threat of the disease. More than 10 million children will be paralyzed in the next 40 years if the world fails to capitalize on its US$5 billion global investment in eradication.

SINCE 1985, Rotary has worked tirelessly in coopration with World Health Organizations to rid the world of this terrible disease.  TODAY, there are only 4 countries in the world where polio exists.  These are:  India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

What is the Gates Challenge Grant?
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded US$255 million to Rotary International in the global effort to eradicate polio, bringing the total committed by Rotary and the Gates Foundation to $555 million.

Shortly after meeting with incoming district governors from the four countries where the wild poliovirus is endemic -- Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan -- Bill Gates announced the new grant on Wednesday morning at the International Assembly in San Diego, California, USA.

"Rotarians, government leaders, and health professionals have made a phenomenal commitment to get us to a point at which polio afflicts only a small number of the world's children," Gates said. "However, complete elimination of the poliovirus is difficult and will continue to be difficult for a number of years. Rotary in particular has inspired my own personal commitment to get deeply involved in achieving eradication."  "We are going to end polio now," affirmed Robert S. Scott, chair of RI's International PolioPlus Committee.

In response to the new $255 million Gates Foundation grant, Rotary will raise $100 million in matching funds. In November 2007, RI received a $100 million Gates Foundation grant, which Rotary committed to match by raising $100 million.  The two Gates Foundation challenge grants now total $355 million. Rotary International's matching effort in response is called Rotary's US$200 Million Challenge, which must be completed by 30 June 2012.

The $255 million grant is one of the largest challenge grants ever given by the Gates Foundation and the largest received by Rotary in its 104-year history. Rotary will spend the grant in direct support of immunization activities carried out by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which is spearheaded by RI and its partners , the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF. Rotary will distribute the funds through grants to WHO and UNICEF.

How Your Club Can Help.
District 5580 is asking all Rotary Clubs to help by submitting a goal stating how much your club will be able to donate in the next 2 Rotary years toward the Gates PolioPlus Challenge.  The suggested annual donation is $2,000/club.  For some clubs, that is achievable plus.  For others, it may not be.  However, please know that ANY and ALL Contributions are welcome, no matter how large or small.  They all count!  They are all important!

"As an international community, we have few opportunities to do something that is unquestionably good for every country and every child, in perpetuity. Polio eradication is one of these opportunities."
- Dr. Margaret Chan, World Health Organization director-general

If you have questions, need fundraising ideas, or would be interested in having a program presented at your club meeting, please do not hesitate to contact Cindy Nolte.

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