Posted by Kyle Haugen on Oct 24, 2021
World Polio Day 2021
In the 1940s and 1950s, communities throughout the United States and around the world were experiencing virus-related challenges like we face today: events, such as the MN State Fair, were cancelled, parents feared letting their children go in public, and there was great anxiety dealing with an endemic disease.  While today we deal with Covid-19, at that time it was polio, which typically attacks children causing life-long issues including paralysis and death. 
Thanks to an effective and safe vaccine polio has been eradicated since 1979 in the United States, but it still affects people throughout the world.  And, with an increasingly interconnected world, the spread of polio is only a plane ride away.  This underscores the fact that no child is safe until polio is eradicated.
Since 1988, Rotary and its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) have reduced the number of wild poliovirus cases by over 99.99%!  The GPEI is a public-private partnership led by world governments and several partners: Rotary International, the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).  The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation joined the GPEI in 2007, while Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, has recently joined the effort and ensures funding for the global polio vaccine supply. Each partner has an important role, including Rotary International, which has been a key partner in the GPEI from the start and is often referred to as the “glue that holds the GPEI together”. Rotarians have raised over $2.1 billion for polio eradication since 1988, including matching funds from the Gates Foundation, which matches every dollar raised by Rotarians 2 to 1, up to $50 million per year.
Back in 1988, there were 350,000 cases of polio annually in 125 countries.  Through the years, we have made great progress and reached several significant milestones. The latest? In August 2020, Africa was certified polio free when Nigeria went three years without a wild poliovirus case. This is great news and has been a long time coming.  Today, there are only two countries that remain polio-endemic: Afghanistan and Pakistan. Last year, Afghanistan had 56 cases of the wild poliovirus, and Pakistan had 84. This year, each country has only 1 confirmed case of the wild poliovirus! We have never been this close to eradicating polio! We will make history when polio becomes only the 2nd disease ever eradicated; smallpox was the other. 
Locally, Prior Lake Rotary has raised significant funds for Rotary’s signature program, Polio Plus. In the past ten years, the total has been over a quarter of a million dollars! With the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation match, that is over $750,000! For the past 10 years, funds from tip jars at Prior Lake Rotary’s Lakefront Music Fest have gone toward this, so you are part of the polio eradication effort through your tips! October 24 is World Polio Day, and we encourage you to help us finish the job and end polio now.