Rotary effort to eradicate polio gets local support

  • Mar. 2, 2011 1:00 p.m.

Rotary International has been working to eradicate polio around the world since 1985 and now they’re getting close.

The number of polio endemic countries has dropped from 125 to four in that time, and with help from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Rotary International is making what they hope will be a final push to eradicate the disease once and for all.

Fred Hughes, president of the Sunrise 2000 Rotary Club in Castlegar, said Rotary International began administering the polio vaccine around the world because travelling members saw the toll that polio had on children around the world, and preventing the disease is quite easy.

“It’s just two drops of the vaccine and that’s it,” he said. “The kids are protected.”

As the main humanitarian project that Rotary International is currently undertaking, a lot of time and resources have been put towards the eradication of polio.

“Ending polio has been brought to our attention for the last five or six years,” Hughes said.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged $355 million and has challenged Rotary International to raise $200 million by June 2012 to help support the immunization campaigns in the remaining countries where polio continues to infect and paralyze children.

Hughes said a portion of money raised from the club’s fundraisers go towards the cause. The Sunrise 2000 club donates around a couple thousand dollars per year, in addition to the amounts each club member donates as well.

Donations to the polio intitiative come from rotary fundraisers like the annual dinner theatre and the upcoming wine festival.

“We’re going to stay the course until we get it. We’re so close; we only have the four countries. They’re problematic because of where they are,” Hughes explained.

“It’s a major logistics issue to make sure the vaccine is kept cool for the Rotary members to go out and administer it.”

One of the four countries Rotary International is working on is India, where, in some cities, the temperature routinely reaches 40 C in the summer.

“It’s the hardest [countries] that take the longest to deal with,” Hughes said.

For more information or to donate to the cause outside of Rotary fundraisers, visit rotary.org/endpolio.