DGE Noel Jackson introduced PDG Bob Gallagher who was the keynote speaker at the annual World Polio Day luncheon. Bob spoke about a critical cause of RI’s since 1985 – Polio eradication. Polio myelitis actually dates back to the time of the Egyptians, he said.
The March of Dimes campaign was one of the original organizations to raise money to eradicate polio. In 1979, he said, Rotary spearheaded a program in the Philippines with over 7,000 islands to eradicate polio in that country. They were eventually successful with vaccines in that country and thought that they could do the same throughout the world where the disease existed.
“So, in 1985, Rotary had this great idea to conduct a world-wide effort.” At that time 125 countries were endemic with over 300,000 cases every year. “The governments across the world teamed up with the World Health Organization, RI, UNICEF and the Center for Disease Control in 1988 to start the process of eradicating polio. Joining a bit later was the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that finished the process.”
The original budget, he said, was $144M yet raised $247M! Louise, Bob said, was the last case of polio in the America’s and was at his District Conference in 2002-03. RI is responsible for 144 laboratories around the world in order to contain the spread of Polio other contagious diseases like SARS and Ebola and will have a very positive affect well after polio is eradicated, Bob said.
The polio vaccine must be kept at a temperature below 50 degrees. It is packed in Styrofoam containers to be shipped in order to be ready to immunize individuals across the world. Each person is given two drops. Bob suggested if anyone wanted to participate in a National Immunization Day event, they should do so now. “It’s a limited time offer” since polio has almost been eradicated in the world.” Nothing, he said, has been more rewarding than to immunize a child against polio. The pink pen is then used to color the fingernail to confirm that it occurred. Bob said that on one immunization day, 124 million children were vaccinated in a 24 hour period!
By 2008, Bob said, there were only four countries left that still had polio cases – India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria. By 2011, there were no more cases in India! In 2016, there were only 4 cases of polio in Nigeria! Today, there is not a single case of polio in Africa, Bob said! There are only two countries now where polio still exists – Pakistan and Afghanistan. In 2017 there were 14 cases in Afghanistan and 8 in Pakistan. Today, the number in Pakistan, Bob said, has gone up to 72. These are primarily in the north, the area still controlled by the Taliban.
Total cases currently is 88. This is a far cry from where it all started representing a 99.7% cure rate thanks to RI who “has been the driving force” behind this effort”, Bob said.