Polio is a paralyzing and potentially fatal disease that still threatens children in some parts of the world. Poliovirus invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis in hours. It can strike people of any age but mainly affects children under 5. While polio can be prevented by vaccines, it is not curable. Unlike most diseases, though, polio can be eradicated.
For more than 30 years, Rotary and its international partners have driven the effort to eradicate polio worldwide. Rotary’s PolioPlus program was the first initiative to tackle global polio eradication by vaccinating children on a massive scale. As a core partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, Rotary focuses on advocacy, fundraising, volunteer recruitment and awareness-building.
Rotary members have contributed more than $2.1 billion and countless volunteer hours to protect more than 2.5 billion children in 122 countries from this paralyzing disease. Rotary’s advocacy efforts have played a role in decisions by governments to contribute more than $10 billion to the effort.
When this initiative started in 1988, there were 350,000 cases of polio in 125 countries every year. Today, polio cases have been reduced by 99.9 percent, and just two countries continue to report cases of wild poliovirus: Afghanistan and Pakistan. Because of these efforts, nearly 19 million people, who would otherwise have been paralyzed, are walking, and more than 1.5 million people are alive who would otherwise have died. The infrastructure Rotary helped build to end polio is also being used to treat and prevent other diseases, including COVID-19.
We have made tremendous progress against polio, but, with Afghanistan and Pakistan facing unique challenges, eliminating all cases is going to take even more progress and perseverance. With sufficient resources, the commitment of national governments, and innovations that improve access to remote areas, Rotary remains optimistic that we can succeed.
Rotary has committed to raising $50 million per year for polio eradication. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged to match that 2-to-1, for a total commitment of $150 million each year. These funds provide much-needed operational support, medical workers, laboratory equipment, and educational materials. Governments, corporations, and private donors all play a crucial role in funding.
You can make a huge difference in this international effort by joining the Rotary Club of Wausau and the Wausau Early Birds Rotary Club for a virtual Pints for Polio event from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 24.
A live concert at Bull Falls Brewery, 901 E. Thomas St. in Wausau, will be livestreamed so you can enjoy the event from the comfort of your own home. Bull Falls Brewery will also donate $1 for each pint of beer sold onsite and $4 for each growler sold on Friday and Saturday, prior to the event, to pre-registered participants. Online donations will also be accepted. Please visit www.wausauearlybirdsrotary.org to register for this event and donate to this important cause.
Matt Rowe, president, Rotary Club of Wausau
Dave Anderson, president, Wausau Early Birds Rotary Club
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