District 7570 a Leader in Polio Eradication Efforts

District 7570 and Zone 33 continue to be leaders in fund raising for Rotary's support of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). For the last Rotary year, which ended on June 30, 2019, District 7570 contributed $217,639 (which equals $65.97 per member) to the Polio Plus Fund. District 7570 was the second highest in giving among the 15 districts in Zone 33 in total contributions and fourth in per capita giving. For the first eight months of this Rotary year, you have contributed $142,748 ($43.94 per member). It is critical that we press on with our fundraising and other efforts. Rotary International has committed to raising $50 million each year for polio eradication. In 2017, Bill Gates pledged to match Rotary's contribution on a 2:1 basis for three years. In other words, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation would contribute $100 million a year if Rotary met its goal. The Gates Foundation recently announced that it is renewing its pledge for another three years. We need your help to meet this commitment.

Why is this so critical? As long as polio remains endemic, immunization is the key to eliminating it. In 1988, there were 350,000 cases of wild polio across 125 countries. In 2018, there were only 33 cases in two countries. Unfortunately, there was an uptick in the number of cases reported in 2019 with 173 new cases reported in two countries. New polio cases have been significantly reduced, primarily by establishing routine immunization programs. Globally in 1980, only 22 percent of one-year-olds were vaccinated against polio. In 2018, about 86 percent of the world's children received vaccines that would protect them against polio, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and measles. The goal is to have at least 95 percent of the population immunized, preventing 2 - 3 million deaths every year. Even though the GPEI has not yet reached the goal of eradicating polio, it has been successful in reducing the prevalence of polio: reported polio cases have been reduced by 99.99% and two of its three stereotypes have already been eradicated. Despite this success, more than 1.5 million people
worldwide die from vaccine-preventable diseases each year.

As of this writing, only three countries (Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria) are yet to be declared polio free. No new cases of polio have been reported in Nigeria since 2016. It is hoped that Nigeria and all of Africa will be declared free of the wild polio virus later this year. Most of the new cases in Pakistan and Afghanistan can be tied to areas bordering the Khyber Pass which connects the two countries. The area is controlled by the Taliban or elements sympathetic to them. The people are very superstitious and there are many rumors about the contents of the vaccination, so the refusal rate is high. The government of Pakistan has renewed its commitment to the elimination of polio and has been conducting numerous vaccination campaigns. The GPEI has established a goal of vaccinating 450,000 children each year — not just in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but also in 70 other countries.

An estimated 16 million people today are walking who would otherwise have been paralyzed by the disease, and more than 1.5 million people are alive, whose lives would otherwise have been lost. Now the challenge remains to attack polio in its last few strongholds and get rid of the final 0.1% of polio cases. Please join with us and be a part of the effort to end polio.