ROTARIANS SUPPORT THE WORLDWIDE FIGHT AGAINST POLIO
Poliomyelitis (Polio) is a disease, which occurs mostly in children. If it enters the bloodstream, it attacks the central nervous system and destroys motor neurons, leading to muscle weakness. Different types of paralysis may ensue, the most common being spinal paralysis. In this country, we have been free of this dreadful disease since the 1960s, but in 1988, it was endemic in 125 countries of the world, including France and Spain. It was in that year that Rotary International began the task of eradicating Polio, which could be prevented by means of a simple vaccination, which was extremely cheap to produce and which today only costs around 50p. The eradication of Polio was not a task which Rotary could take on on its own and so a long term partnership was formed with the World Health Organisation. In the ensuing 25 years, gradual, but steady progress has been made and Polio is now only to be found in 3 countries – Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. In order to achieve this, Rotary has had to raise huge sums of money, £650 million having been generated by 2009. In that year, Bill Gates of Microsoft pledged the sum of £300 million through his charity, The Bill & Melissa Gates Foundation, on the understanding that within 3 years, Rotary would raise a further £170 million. This target was exceeded by Rotary during 2012. In spite of all this money and effort, the job has not yet been completed and will not be, until there are no more outbreaks of Polio anywhere in the world. This is achievable, if sufficient funding is provided. The Rotary Club of Walton-on-Thames has been involved in fundraising for the Polio eradication programme since its inception and remains committed to the cause.