On October 24, Rotary District 6820 joins the 34,000 local Rotary clubs around the globe in celebrating World Polio Day, commemorating the near elimination of polio, once considered among the most feared diseases in the United States and abroad. While Rotarians celebrate World Polio Day and the progress made toward polio eradication, much of the general public and younger generation in particular do not know the history or facts about this devastating disease, even though they were vaccinated against it as children.
Early in the 20th century (1930-1955), America’s hospitals were filled with children in iron lungs because of paralytic polio. Dr. Jonas Salk, an American physician and medical researcher, developed the first safe and effective vaccine for polio in the 1950’s. Later, an oral form of the vaccine was created by Albert Sabin in the 1960’s, which today continues to be successfully administered around the world for a mere $0.25 per dose. Though North America became polio-free in 1994, the disease still exists abroad. It cannot be cured but can be prevented by immunization and, like smallpox, can be eradicated.
Determined to “End Polio,” Rotary International initiated the Polio Plus Program in 1984 and joined the World Polio Eradication Initiative along with the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, and UNICEF in 1987. In 1988, there were 350,000 patients worldwide who were paralyzed due to polio, but today tells a different story. Thanks to Rotary’s leadership, there were only 33 cases of wild polio virus confirmed last year, and those were isolated in Pakistan and Afghanistan. This year, the reported cases of Paralytic Polio rose to 78.
Rotarians have contributed $1.9 billion and countless volunteer hours to protect more than 2.5 billion children in 122 countries from this devastating disease. Rotary’s advocacy and efforts have played a role in decisions by governments to contribute more than $8 billion. Rotary International has committed to raising $50 million per year for polio eradication with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledging to provide a 2 to 1 match, for a total commitment of $150 million each year.
Rotary District 6820 in Central Mississippi has planned two Polio Plus fundraising events to increase public awareness of polio and encourage citizens to actively support the organization’s efforts to banish this crippling disease forever.
The Polio Plus 5K Run/Walk will be held Saturday, October 19, starting at 8 a.m. at the Bank Plus building in the Renaissance Mall in Ridgeland. Visit www.msracetiming.com for details and registration.
Rotary clubs in the Metro Jackson area will convene for a World Polio Day celebration luncheon scheduled for Thursday, October 24 in Jackson from 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. in the Toulouse Building at St. Dominic’s Hospital. The program will consist of presentations by healthcare professionals and a testimonial from a local polio survivor.
Rotary brings together a global network of volunteer leaders dedicated to tackling the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges. Their work impacts lives at both the local and international levels, from helping families in need in their own communities to working toward a polio-free world.
Dr. Suman K. Das is a Northsider. He is Rotary District 6820 Polio Plus Chair. Cell: 601-594-3888, Dr.firstname.lastname@example.org.