Rotary's Big Push to end Polio
October 24 is World Polio Day. Since 1985, when Rotary launched its PolioPlus program, more than one million Rotary club members worldwide have donated their time and private resources to end polio. Every year, Rotary members work side-by-side with health workers to vaccinate children in polio-affected countries. Every dollar Rotary commits to polio eradication is matched two-to-one by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation up to US$35 million a year through 2018.
The Global Polio initiative is the most successful public-private health partnership in history.
Rotary and its partners in the Global Polio Initiative (GPEI) - the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, have trained millions of health workers, and have built a network of 145 laboratories around the world that can identify the disease.
Polio is a paralyzing and potentially fatal disease. The virus invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours. Though it can strike at any age, mainly children under five are affected.
Rotary has gotten this far through persistence
When Rotary started the campaign to end polio in 1985, more than 350,000 children were paralyzed every year by this deadly virus, according to  Michael K. McGovern, Chair of Rotary's International PolioPlus Committee. Since then, Rotary has contributed more than US$1.5 billion and countless volunteer hours to immunize more than 2.5 billion children in 122 countries. In addition, Rotary's advocacy efforts have played a role in decisions by donor governments to contribute more than US$7.2 billion to the effort. 
US$1.5 billion more needed to finish the job
Though as of early June of this year, there were only 16 cases of wild poliovirus in the world, and polio is endemic only in Afghanistan and Pakistan,  the reality is that no place on earth is safe from polio until the world is certified  polio-free. Immunization campaigns must continue in 15-20 other high-risk countries. These large-scale vaccinations are an enormous undertaking, and the distribution of the vaccine is very costly.
The last time a child was affected in Europe was only last year, in 2015, when two Ukrainian children were diagnosed with paralytic polio. Many more were likely infected but did not show symptoms, given the way the disease manifests itself.
So we are not there yet, even though less than 75 polio cases were confirmed worldwide in 2015, a reduction of more than 99.9 percent since the 1980's when the world saw about 1,000 cases per day. Where vaccination coverage is low, it can re-infect populations. even in countries that have been certified polio-free.
The polio cases represented by the remaining one percent are the most difficult to prevent, due to factors such as geographical isolation, poor public infrastructure, armed conflict and cultural barriers. Hundreds of millions of children still need to be vaccinated every year.
Then once the last case of polio is recorded, it will take another three years to ensure that this was the final one. A huge amount of work will remain, at a price tag of US$1.5 billion. All the programs will still continue and will need funding. Ongoing environmental surveillance to prevent accidental reintroduction, and keeping the lab network - the most highly sophisticated infectious disease prevention network in the world - operational is complicated and costly.
Contributions to help eradicate polio can be made at