Skip to content

Rotary and the Battle to Defeat Polio Worldwide | The Business Show

Rotary is an international community that brings together leaders who step up to take on the world’s toughest challenges, locally and globally.

Poliomyelitis is a highly infectious disease that most commonly affects children under the age of 5. Most know it as poliovirus. The virus is spread person to person, typically through contaminated water. It can attack the nervous system, and in some instances, lead to paralysis. Although there is no cure, there is a safe and effective vaccine – one which Rotary and our partners use to immunize over 2.5 billion children worldwide.

Over the past three decades, the world has made tremendous progress toward eradicating polio. In 1988 – when wild poliovirus was present in more than 125 countries and paralysed 350,000 people every year, most of them young children – the World Health Assembly set a goal to eliminate the disease, and the GPEI was launched. Since then, immunization efforts have reduced the number of cases by more than 99%, saving more than 18 million children from paralysis. Today, wild polio is found only in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Despite this progress, several challenges remain in reaching all children with vaccines. Wild poliovirus continues to circulate in parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and outbreaks of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPVs), a rare form of the virus that can emerge in under-immunized communities, are ongoing in parts of Africa and Asia. Efforts to reach unvaccinated children are often hampered by poor campaign quality, weak routine immunization, massive mobile populations, and insecurity. If we fail to eradicate this highly contagious disease, within a decade we could witness a resurgence of as many as 200,000 new cases annually.

The eradication of polio is one of Rotary’s longest standing and most significant efforts. Along with its partners, Rotary has helped immunize more than 2.5 billion children against polio in 122 countries for more than 35 years. Its goal of ridding the world of this disease is closer than ever. As a founding partner of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, it has reduced polio cases by 99.9% since its first project to vaccinate children in the Philippines in 1979.

Rotary members have contributed more than $2.1 billion and countless volunteer hours to protect nearly 3 billion children in 122 countries from this paralyzing disease. Rotary’s advocacy efforts have played a key role in decisions by governments to contribute more than $10 billion to the effort.

Hear more on Spotify

In this episode, Arif discusses polio and Rotary’s efforts to eradicate the disease with Gordon McInally, President of Rotary International 2023-24.

Listen to Bloomsbury Radio now!

Broadcasting 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Bloomsbury Radio offers a mix of music, news on the hour, sports and entertainment updates. Culture, society, education and employment all come under the spotlight on our higher education-focused radio station.