Rotary’s flagship international effort is the eradication of polio. 

 

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. Today, polio cases have been reduced by 99.9 percent. 
 
Africa was declared polio free in 2020 and now polio remains endemic only in the remotest regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
 
With polio nearly eradicated, Rotary and its partners must sustain this progress and continue to reach every child with the polio vaccine. Without full funding and political commitment, this paralyzing disease could return to polio-free countries, putting children everywhere in the world at risk.
 
Since 1985 Rotary has contributed more than 2.1 billion US Dollars to ending polio and we are committed to raising US$50 million each year to support global polio eradication efforts. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation joined the fight in 2017 and have pledged to match every dollar raised by Rotary 2-to-1, for a total yearly contribution 150 million US Dollars. 
 
 “Rotary was the first organization to push for a polio-free world, and so many Rotarians have been part of fundraising, vaccination, and advocacy efforts. The final steps to a polio-free world are the hardest — and we’ll need the help of every Rotarian to get there. But I’m confident that we will end polio together.”
 
Bill Gates,
co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
 
 
 

Many Rotarians pay for their travel and volunteer their time to participate in mass immunization days around the world. Typically this will involve helping in public health promotion campaigns to illustrate the importance of vaccination programs. This followed by a day or perhaps 2 where volunteers under the supervision of local Rotarians and medical staff administer 2 drops of polio vaccine to children under the age of 5 years.

 

Pictures show Sylvia and Tony Sheard administering drops in a rural village near Agra, India.

 

Sylvia said “ What an amazing and humbling experience. Women handing you their babies and children to you to receive the 2 drops of polio vaccine. They would have received the drops anyway, but the presence of Rotary and a white, blonde woman attracted a lot of attention to the national immunization day,

 

Tony said “ Children and families arrived from nowhere, on bikes, motorbikes and by ox cart to get to the clinic which was hastily set up on a porch of a rural home. The children’s names were ticked off a list by the Public Health Nurse and then we administered 2 drops to each unsuspecting child. It was a humbling experience that will live me for the rest of my life that they should be so grateful to some “white westerners” who had jetted in to offer help. Their gratitude renewed my enthusiasm and passion to continue to raise funds to ensure we eradicate this terrible disease from our planet”