In 1996, 75,000 children in Africa were paralysed by polio. August 2020, Africa has been declared free of wild polio.
This is after decades of work by a coalition of international health bodies led by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Rotary Foundation. The GPEI (Global Polio Eradication Initiative) was inspired by Rotary International’s 1985 pledge to raise $120 million toward immunising all of the world’s children against the disease. It was described by the World Health Organization as the largest public health initiative in history. National and local governments, millions of community volunteers across the world, and also polio survivors, have worked tirelessly to achieve this over the past 30 years.
Four years after the last recorded cases of wild polio in northern Nigeria, the Africa Regional Certification Commission (ARCC) an independent body set up by the WHO, certified that the continent is now free of the virus, which can cause irreversible paralysis and in some cases death. Dr Rose Leke, chair of the ARCC, said the declaration followed exhaustive assessments of surveillance systems in 47 African countries to ensure no cases were missed. Campaigners say the fight is now to improve life for polio survivors.
The Guardian was one of the few national news organisations to acknowledge Rotarys involvement but in fact, Rotary has been involved from the start and is one of the five organizations spearheading its governance:
WHO – World Health Organization – who are responsible for planning, technical direction, surveillance and eradication certification.
Rotary International – whose responsibilities include fundraising, advocacy, and volunteer recruitment.
The CDC – Center for Disease Control – who are in charge of deploying scientists and public health experts to WHO and UNICEF.
UNICEF – United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund – is in charge of the distribution of the vaccine and helping countries develop communication and awareness strategies.
The Gates Foundation – who have latterly provided a large portion of the funding.
Read more about our project to End Polio here – https://www.endpolio.org/