October-November 2022 | Comment

Jennifer Jones – Rotary International President’s Column

Jennifer Jones – Rotary International President’s Column

Rotary International President Jennifer Jones shines a light on the work Rotarians are doing in the bid to eradicate polio.

In August, I was proud to visit Pakistan and highlight Rotary’s top goal, eradicating polio.

It was also a tremendous opportunity to spotlight women health workers who are playing a critical role in protecting children from this vaccine-preventable disease.

This month, as we celebrate World Polio Day, we are shining a spotlight on our more than 30-year effort to lead the first global polio eradication campaign and our success in forming partnerships capable of completing this massive goal.

We all know that this is one of the most ambitious global health initiatives in history and that we’ve reduced polio cases by more than 99.9% worldwide.

Pakistan remains one of only two countries in the world with circulating wild poliovirus. The other is neighbouring Afghanistan.

I know that the will exists across the Rotary world to end polio, and I’m confident that we have the strategy.”

I was able to witness and take part in vaccination campaigns in Pakistan, and soon after I left, a monumental nationwide immunisation campaign took place, focused on 43 million children under the age of five.

I saw the incredible work of Rotary members on the ground. More than 60 percent of vaccinators in Pakistan are women, and they are doing a remarkable job building trust and convincing mothers to vaccinate their children.

Seeing it all first-hand, I know that the will exists across the Rotary world to end polio, and I’m confident that we have the strategy.

The Pakistani media has been very supportive of our efforts as well, and this is making a difference.

This month, a new global pledging moment at the World Health Summit in Berlin promises to pull together more resources to fund these time-sensitive eradication efforts. Now it is up to us to do our part and raise $50 million this year to earn the full two-for-one match from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

There’s great cause for optimism on the polio front — but also some staggering new events that further raise the stakes.

Over the past few months, new polio outbreaks have occurred in Israel, the United Kingdom and, most recently, in the New York City area of the United States. These stories are frightening, but
in every case, the response is clear — vaccines work, and if polio is spreading, we need to make sure the most at-risk people have kept their vaccinations up to date.

Most importantly, we need to eradicate this virus now. If polio exists anywhere, it can spread everywhere.

What I saw in Pakistan convinced me that we can and must finish the job, but it will only happen if we remain committed to a strategy that’s working and back it with all necessary resources.

Through our commitment, generosity, and sheer determination, we will end polio.

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