During the upcoming Market Street Festival held on September 27, 2008 the Selinsgrove Rotary Club painted pinkies purple for $0.60 to raise community awareness as well as funds to support Rotary International PolioPlus program.
The world is on the verge of eliminating one of the most dreaded diseases of the 20th century — poliomyelitis. During the first half of the 20th century, polio crippled over a half a million people every year. Even today, children in some developing countries continue to fall victim to the disease. But thanks in large part to Rotary International and to the 1.2 million Rotary members worldwide, the disease will soon be all but a memory.
Before celebrating this public health milestone, the spread of the poliovirus must be interrupted in the poorest and most populous regions of the world, and surveillance must continue for several years to be sure the virus is completely wiped-out. This is no easy task. One of the greatest challenges to the effort is a funding shortage.
Much of the needed assistance will come from Rotary or from Rotary’s advocacy work with national governments and the private sector. To date, Rotary has contributed US$633 million to the protection of more than two billion children in 122 countries. Rotary reaches out to governments worldwide to obtain vital financial and technical support. Since 1995, donor governments have contributed in excess of $3 billion to polio eradication, due in part to Rotary’s advocacy efforts.
In addition to raising money for polio eradication, Rotary members offer their time and expertise in the field to fight polio by providing support at clinics, transporting vaccine, contributing medical supplies, and mobilizing their communities for immunization and other polio eradication activities. More than one million members of Rotary worldwide have contributed toward the success of the polio eradication effort to date, demonstrating the extraordinary impact civil society can have on a global public health initiative.
The PolioPlus program represents the largest private-sector support of a global health initiative. Rotary’s role was recognized by former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan as a model for public/private partnerships in the 21st century. Other spearheading partners on the global eradication team include the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Once eradicated, polio will join smallpox as one of only two diseases ever eliminated. And, Rotary will continue serving as a leader in humanitarian programs, with the hope that its success will inspire other private entities to work in similar ways for the public good.