Rotary first launched its Polio Plus Program in 1985. Since then, the world has seen a substantial reduction in the number of polio cases. In the 1980s, there were 1,000 new cases per day and the disease was prevalent in 125 countries. Last month, Nigeria, one of the three remaining countries where polio was endemic, was certified polio-free. And now, after years of work across the 47 countries on the continent, the World Health Organisation has declared the entire African region free from wild polio.
This is one of the biggest public health achievements of our time and Rotary should be shouting this news from the rooftops. With Nigeria now polio-free, the number of polio cases has been reduced by 99.9%, and only two countries continue to report cases of the wild poliovirus: Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Of course, Rotary remains committed to the end, with many of us wanting to finish the job for Sir Clem Renouf, the man whose dream of a Polio-free world started this Rotary initiative and who sadly died on 11 June 2020.
With the eradication of polio in sight, Rotary and its partners are continuing their drive to reach every child and give them the polio vaccine. Without full funding and political commitment, this paralysing disease could return to polio-free countries, putting children everywhere at risk. Rotary has committed to raising US$50 million each year to support global polio eradication efforts. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged to match that 2-to-1, for a total yearly contribution of US$150 million.
Just last month, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, met with Bill Gates and acknowledged the Gates Foundation’s continued support to Pakistan in fighting COVID-19. Mr Khan said that ‘the repurposing of polio infrastructure played an important role in the pandemic response and affirmed that the eradication of polio was the top priority of his government.’ This is such good news for Rotary’s End Polio campaign – we are so close to our goal. Many think that amid a pandemic we shouldn’t be working on the Polio Program and celebrating this achievement; however, as Rotary International President Holger Knaack said, ‘During a challenging year for global health, the certification of the African region as wild poliovirus-free is a sign of hope and progress that shows what can be accomplished through collaboration and perseverance.’ Also, the infrastructure produced by the EndPolio program – from the surveillance and laboratory networks to the local health care workers – is already being used to counter COVID-19.
World Polio Day is on Saturday 24 October 2020. The purpose of the day is to raise awareness, funds, and support to end polio (a vaccine-preventable disease). A not so well known fact is that many polio survivors end up with postpolio syndrome and become wheelchairbound due to a gradual weakening in muscles that were previously affected by the polio infection.
Rotary’s World’s Greatest Meal to End Polio (WGM) has organised a Pies for Polio Event at the Bribie Island Hotel. This event is among thousands that will be held by Rotary Clubs and Rotary Groups all around the world. It will be held at the Bribie Island Hotel, 29 Sylvan Beach Esplanade where a plethora of pies will be served and drinks available for purchase. Wendy, the Chef at Bribie Island Hotel, will be making a selection of gourmet pies – egg and bacon, steak, chicken and for those who can’t resist something sweet – a special lemon meringue pie. This year, ‘Pies for Polio’ is the theme for all WGM events around the World. Since 1985, Rotary has contributed more than US$2.1 billion to ending polio. This figure includes over US3.715 million raised by WGM, which at the date of writing has held 6,300 events in 83 countries with 403,314 participants.
Event organiser and local identity, Bill Peacock, OAM, who is the Australian and Oceania Coordinator for WGM, said that this will be a COVID-19 safe event. Social distancing is to be observed and hand sanitiser will be supplied at the Hotel. The organisers have all completed Infectious Control Training. Bill also said that unlike many of the Clubs in America, he is not expecting to take a pie in the face!
However, for a suitable donation, I will gladly take a lemon meringue in the face to support this worthwhile cause. Humble pie, of course, will be on the menu for those who overindulge. Remember, until we end polio forever, every child is at risk – even here in Australia. Help Rotary make Sir Clem’s vision a reality and become part of an amazing achievement. African Beninese singer-songwriter Angelique Kidjo put it like this: ‘I am from a generation who has witnessed the devastating effects of polio. When I discovered how close we were to eradicating polio, I was very motivated to be a part of this movement. It is so rare when you can accomplish something so spectacular.’ So, come and join the fun – enjoy a pie – or two, and know you are helping this worthwhile cause.
Tickets are limited due to COVID-19 restrictions so don’t be disappointed, book early via the Event Booking Website http://1042411423. eventbookings.com/ PIES FOR POLIO BRUNCH SAT 24 OCT 2020 TIME: 11.30 FOR 12 NOON BRIBIE ISLAND HOTEL, 29 Sylvan Beach Esplanade, Bellara Cost: $36.00 Book: http://1042411423. eventbookings.com/ Contact: Bill Peacock 0403 686 998 or Anne Matthews 0409 244 005