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Rotary spearheaded the campaign at a time when there were over 1,000 polio cases a day in 125 countries, paralysing and even killing children.
Today, the number of cases is down by 99.9%.
Over the last 35 years, Rotary members, working with communities around the world, have contributed more than US$2.1 billion and countless volunteer hours to the fight to end polio.
Inspired in part by Rotary’s volunteer commitment and fundraising success, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) was launched in 1988.
This remarkable partnership which includes Rotary, World Health Organization, UNICEF, the US Center for Disease Control & Prevention and, more recently, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and GAVI the Vaccine Alliance. These organisations work alongside governments of the world to end polio.
Because of the efforts of Rotary and our partners, nearly 19 million people who would otherwise have been paralysed are walking, and more than 1.5 million people are alive who would otherwise have died.
Despite there only being a handful of cases left in the world, continued campaigning, health worker training and vaccination programmes are essential to stop the disease returning and ensuring the world is certified polio-free. Over 400 million children still have to receive their polio vaccinations by the GPEI partners multiple times every single year in more than 50 countries.
Rotary members continue to be key players in many aspects of the polio programme including on the ground in a number of countries as well as fundraising and advocacy.
Failure to eradicate polio could result in as many as 200,000 new cases worldwide every year within a decade.