Today we are closer than ever to ending this terrible disease forever.
When I first began working with Rotary’s Pakistan National PolioPlus Committee eight years ago, I asked myself, “Is it possible to end polio in Pakistan?” How can we overcome the challenge of deep-seated misconceptions about vaccines to reach children in remote areas with the vaccine?
I didn’t know the answer then, but I’ve since learned that with the right framework and parameters, it is possible to beat the odds. Our team works in tandem with the Government of Pakistan and partners to devise strategies and action plans that have decreased polio in Pakistan from 300 cases in 2014 to just five this year.
It all began in 1985, when Rotary started its PolioPlus program and continued as we became a partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) in 1988. At that time, there were 350,000 polio cases in 125 countries. Since then, in less than 30 years, the number of polio cases globally has plummeted by more than 99.9 percent – with just 37 cases in 2016, and 12 this year.
We should remember the people behind the scenes who have made these remarkable achievements possible. The true heroes are the health workers on the frontlines of fighting this disease – many of whom are mothers that put their own lives at risk, traveling from house to house in some of the most difficult to reach communities – to ensure that no child ever has to suffer from this paralyzing disease. Their commitment, dedication, and courage should inspire us all.
Today we are closer than ever to ending this terrible disease forever, but aggressive vaccination efforts must continue. For the fifth consecutive year, the global community will commemorate World Polio Day on October 24. We will celebrate how far we have come and raise awareness of what is needed to finish the job.
Take Action Challenge
- Help support the efforts to achieve a polio-free world by donating to Rotary International at endpolio.org. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will triple donations up to $50 million each year for the next three years.
- This World Polio Day, October 24, tune into the Rotary International Facebook livestream at 5:30 p.m. EST/2:30 p.m. PST.
Thank you to Rotary International for the photos in this post.