October 24 is World Polio Day

As World Polio Day approaches, the Rotary community is getting ready to amplify our message about eradicating polio to protect the world’s children from this devastating disease.

Together, we’ve made tremendous progress. Now it’s time to intensify our fight to make polio the second human disease ever to be eradicated. Last year, the World Health Organization’s African region was certified free of wild poliovirus, showing that eradication is possible even in very difficult circumstances. The wild poliovirus remains endemic in just two countries: Afghanistan and Pakistan. We can use World Polio Day to advocate for the support we need to end polio in countries where it still paralyzes children.

Inspire action
Take action for World Polio Day by promoting the importance of polio eradication, raising funds, and planning events. Let’s engage our communities in the fight against polio — because as long as polio exists anywhere, it remains a threat everywhere.

Use the World Polio Day Toolkit to find resources and tips for planning activities and promoting a polio-free world. Inspire others to join us by hosting virtual and community events, creating fundraisers, and sharing posts on social media

Register your club’s participation in World Polio Day to show how Rotary, Rotaract, and Interact clubs around the world are taking action to eradicate polio. If you register your events, fundraisers, and promotions by 14 October, you’ll get early access to a download of Rotary’s World Polio Day Global Update one week before the program will be shown on 24 October on Rotary’s Facebook page and endpolio.org.

Use Raise for Rotary to start an online fundraiser to benefit The Rotary Foundation’s PolioPlus Fund for World Polio Day. Then, share it with your network! The top Raise for Rotary World Polio Day 2021 fundraisers will be featured on My Rotary.

What is Polio?

  • Polio is a crippling and potentially deadly infectious disease.
  • It is caused by the poliovirus. The virus spreads from person to person and can invade an infected person’s brain and spinal cord, causing paralysis.
  • Warning signs include flu-like symptoms such as sore throat, fever, tiredness, nausea, headache, stomach pain.
  • More serious signs include:
    • Paresthesia (feeling of pins and needles in the legs)
    • Meningitis (infection covering the spinal cord and/or brain)
    • Paralysis or weakness in the arms, legs, or both
  • Paralysis is the most severe symptom associated with polio because it can lead to permanent disability and death. Between 2 and 10 out of 100 people who have paralysis die because the virus affects the muscles that help them breathe.

Rotary Involvement in Polio Eradication

In the 1950s and ’60s, virtually every person knew someone in their family or circle of friends who had Polio.  In the early 1950s, there were annually over 55,000 cases of Polio in the United States.  Worldwide there were perhaps 500,000 cases of Polio.  Of that number, 50,000 children a year would die from Polio and thousands more would be crippled, paralyzed, or suffer lifelong disabilities.

What started as a one-time Polio immunization day in the Philippines in 1978, was adopted by RI in 1982, became PolioPlus in 1985, partnered with the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the CDC in 1987, and supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation starting in 2012, is now considered one of Rotary’s greatest humanitarian programs.

In 1988, Polio was in 125 nations and it was  estimated that there were 350,000 cases of Polio in the world every year.  Rotary’s first big immunization day was in Mexico:13 million children, followed by Central and South America.  One nation after another became “Polio free”.

Rotary Clubs became PolioPlus Partners to raise funds for National Immunization Days.  The Partners purchased ice boxes, colorful vests, caps, leaflets, street banners, and many other items needed to mobilize whole nations to immunize their children. Local Rotarians managed logistics, recruited volunteers, and managed the immunization process.

One day in India, over 125 million children received the two drops of Polio vaccine.  Rotarians have gone to some of the most poverty-stricken areas of the Philippines, Ethiopia, Turkey, and other nations to assist in National Immunization Days. The project is an amazing and complicated one. Rotarians and health workers have to go to the most remote areas of the world by canoe, camels, elephants, horseback, motorbikes, and every other conceivable vehicle to reach all the world’s children.

Even in China, Laos, Vietnam, Cuba, Myanmar, and other areas where there is no Rotary, we worked freely to distribute the vaccine. Very simply, Rotary is often accepted where no other organization is allowed.

Over 99% of the children of the world have received the polio vaccine. In 2017 the Wild Polio Virus was officially active in only three nations:  Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria. A total of 23 cases of the Wild Polio Virus were discovered in 2017. Over 2½ billion children have received Rotary’s Polio vaccine, and they are now living a life without the fear of paralysis and death from Polio. We are on the verge of eradicating this dreaded disease.

District Polio Chair Tom Smith

Download the World Polio Day Toolkit

Use the above downloadable World Polio Day Toolkit . It includes the images below as well as a Polio Refresh Letter, Fact Sheet, How to Take Action Sheet, PowerPoint Template, Letter Template, Sample Press Release, Sample Proclamation, and Sample Social Media Messages.