By Libby Hopkins
In the early 80’s, Rotary International set out to rid the world of polio. For years, people feared this highly contagious viral infection that caused paralysis, breathing problems or even death. Almost three decades later, Rotary International is less than one percent away from eradicating polio. Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only countries left in the world that are still battling polio. This past January, Rotary announced it had raised more than $200 million in new money for polio eradication. In February of this year, India was removed from the list of polio-endemic countries. Many health experts expected India to be polio’s final stronghold, so the country’s polio-free designation after a full year of no new cases represented a major milestone.
Rotary’s efforts to eradicate polio are something that is near and dear to District 6890’s Historian, Ann Wade. She is the wife of current District governor, Tom Wade, and a survivor of polio. She was diagnosed with polio when she was 7-years-old and spent five months in the hospital battling the virus. “I wasn’t totally paralyzed like most victims were, mine mainly settled in my legs,” Wade said. She was able to overcome the virus with therapy, unlike some of the other children who were in the hospital with her. “At the time I had it, there was an epidemic of over 60 thousand cases in the United States; it was ramped and people didn’t know what caused it and everyone was afraid of it,” Wade said.
World Polio Day was this past October, and Rotary International launched the “World’s Biggest Commercial”, an interactive campaign at endpolionow.org, that gives everyone a chance to help them continue their efforts in the eradication of polio. There is no cure and vaccination is the best prevention. Rotary is a global humanitarian organization with more than 1.2 million members in 34,000 rotary clubs in over 200 countries and geographical areas. For more information on rotary’s efforts to eradicate polio or if you would like to make a donation to their cause, you can visit their website at www.endpolionow.org.