Rotary International helps fight polio in the Congo

Rotary International helps fight polio in the Congo

Rotary International helps fight polio in the Congo

Rotary International helps fight polio in the Congo.

Rotary is providing $500,000 in emergency grants to UNICEF and the World Health Organization for immediate countrywide polio immunization campaigns, in response to an outbreak of wild poliovirus in the Republic of Congo.

The recent outbreak requires urgent action by government and partner agencies to make the country polio-free once again.

The World Health Organization reports that at least three national vaccination campaigns have been planned to combat the outbreak, and they say a multi-country campaign will be needed to protect bordering countries from infection.

Congo’s last case of indigenous polio was recorded in 2000, so the current outbreak is due to imported poliovirus from another country or region.

“Polio outbreaks highlight our global vulnerability to infectious disease,” said Dr. Robert Scott, chair of Rotary’s International PolioPlus Committee. “It reinforces the fact that polio ‘control’ is not an option, and only successful eradication will stop the disease.”

Outbreaks of imported cases are not uncommon during eradication efforts, which highlights the urgent need to stop polio transmission in the remaining polio-endemic countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and India.

“Our experience shows that where polio transmission has been stopped before, it can be stopped again,” said Scott. “A fast, large-scale, high-quality immunization response using the new tools at hand, along with strong surveillance, is absolutely critical.”

A highly infectious disease that most commonly affects children, polio can cause paralysis and sometimes death. As there is no cure, the best protection is prevention. For as little as 60 cents worth of vaccine, a child can be protected against this crippling disease for life.

With its spearheading partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative—the World Health Organization, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF—Rotary’s commitment to end polio represents the largest private-sector support of a global health initiative ever. Since 1985, Rotary has contributed more than $900 million to polio eradication.

Rotary is currently working to raise an additional $200 million in response to a $355 challenge grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The resulting $555 million funds polio eradication activities in the remaining endemic and high-risk countries.

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Authored by: Richard Lee

Richard has been traveling since he took a year off from college, where he was doing a BA in Journalism. He traveled half the world, backpacking with his girlfriend (now his wife). They spent time in South America, Asia, Greece and much of Europe. After writing about his experiences for several airline and travel magazines, he never went back to college.