Local Rotarians are celebrating a major milestone in the decades long fight to eradicate polio from the world. The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Africa region has officially been certified wild polio-free.
Polio is a debilitating disease mainly affecting children, which can cause paralysis and even death.
Totnes Rotary has been supporting decades of effort from Rotary clubs and volunteers around the world, who have fundraised, campaigned and worked tirelessly since Rotary pledged to rid the world of polio more than 30 years ago.
Rotary across the world has directly contributed more than US$2 billion to ending polio since 1985.
Local Rotarians have played their part by donating over £10,000 from funds raised by local events such as the Raft Race, Canoe Festival, Dragon Boat Race and Duck race. Across the town purple crocuses, planted by members, bloom every spring as a reminder of the ‘purple pinkie’ showing who has been successfully vaccinated
The certification comes four years after Nigeria, the last polio-endemic country in Africa, recorded its final case of wild polio and now means of the WHO’s six regions, five of those – accounting for 90% of the world’s population – are free from polio.
Globally, more than 2.5 billion children have been protected against the disease, which have reduced the number of cases by 99.9% from around 1,000 cases per day in 125 countries.
Totnes Rotary President Alison Bull said, “This is a terrific landmark in the world’s battle to eradicate polio. Although it has been many years since polio has been present in the UK and Ireland, we are proud to have contributed to the global efforts to eliminate the disease for good.”
“We remain committed to making the final, challenging steps towards making a polio free world a reality.”
“Despite this success, the job to fully rid the world of polio goes on, as the virus continues to circulate in parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan.”
“If we do not finish the job, it is estimated that, within 10 years, as many as 200,000 children annually all over the world could succumb to polio, including here in the UK. The virus can literally be a plane ride away, so vaccination is so important.”
“In order to sustain this progress, vaccination programmes must continue to protect every last child and strengthen routine immunisation to keep immunity levels high, so the virus does not return to Africa or other parts of the world, including the UK. Totnes Rotary will be continuing our support for as long as it takes”.
Although the major fund-raising events for 2020 including the duck race and the raft race have been cancelled because of Covid 19, Totnes Rotary continues to be active.