Published Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Goodbye polio, thanks Rotary

Editorial

Today is World Polio Day, and it’s a time of great anticipation for Rotarians around the world — including Rotarians here in Newnan and Coweta County — as their commitment has gotten us “this close” to eradicating polio in our world.

In fact, today polio has been eradicated from all but three countries — Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. There were fewer than 700 cases of polio reported worldwide in 2011. That is a dramatic change from 1985, when Rotary International decided to lead the fight to eradicate polio worldwide. Then more than 125 countries were polio-endemic, and more than 350,000 children were paralyzed by the disease each year.

Today Rotarians proudly proclaim, “We are ‘this close’ from eliminating poliomyelitis from the Earth.”

With its community-based network worldwide, Rotary is the volunteer arm of a global partnership dedicated to eradicating polio. Since its launch in 1988, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative — spearheaded by the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF, along with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and governments of the world — has reduced polio by more than 99 percent.

Since this push began, more than 2 billion children have been immunized against this crippling and sometimes fatal disease that invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours. It can strike at any age, but mainly affects children under five years.

This war against polio around the world has had impressive results. Indeed, the world is “this close” to being free of the disease. The lasting legacy of this effort in the eradication of polio will result in an estimated savings of $40 billion to $50 billion — money that can be used to address other public health priorities. In addition, the savings in human suffering will be immeasurable.

Our world is on the verge of proudly proclaiming: Goodbye polio, thanks Rotary.

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