Area rotary members to mark historic progress toward polio free world

The Rolla Daily News

Rotary members from 50 clubs in Missouri are taking action on World Polio Day to raise awareness, funds and support to end polio, a vaccine-preventable disease that still threatens children in parts of the world today.

Rotary District Governor Jacqueline Howard, of Waynesville, will host an event for rotarians and the public for World Polio Day from 4-6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24, at Roubidoux Park, in Waynesville.

The district World Polio event will include video, Zoom and Facebook Live messages from Rotary International officers, a silent auction, children’s games, opportunities to donate to Rotary International’s fight to end polio in the world and a cornhole tournament, “This Close.” That’s Rotary’s rallying cry that health officials are “this close” to eradicating polio worldwide. Rotary has contributed more than $2.1 billion to ending polio since 1985.

When Rotary and its partners launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988, there were 350,000 cases of polio in 125 countries every year. 

“We’ve made great progress against the disease since then,” Howard said. “Today, polio cases have been reduced by 99.9 percent, and just two countries continue to report cases of wild poliovirus: Afghanistan and Pakistan. And we remain committed to the end.”

With polio nearly eradicated, Rotary and its partners must sustain this progress and continue to reach every child with the polio vaccine, Howard said.  

“Without full funding and political commitment, this paralyzing disease could return to polio-free countries, putting children everywhere at risk,” Howard said in a news release Monday. 

Rotary has committed to raising $50 million each year to support global polio eradication efforts. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged to match that 2-to-1, for a total yearly contribution of $150 million, according to Howard.