Rotarians Celebrate at Monday’s Meeting

 Led by President Al Avery, Clarkston Rotarians joined Rotarians around the world in celebrating their successful efforts to raise $200 million dollars in order to meet the Bill and Melinda Gates challenge of eliminating polio worldwide.   Rotary International began planning in the early 1980’s for one of the most ambitious humanitarian programs ever undertaken by a private entity.  In 1985, it launched PolioPlus, a multimillion dollar initiative to immunize all the world’s children against polio.  Rotary’s commitment was so great that the World Health Assembly resolved in 1988 to wipe out the disease that had killed and paralyzed for 5000 years.  Clarkston Rotary enthusiastically joined in the battle.

 Since 1985, more than two billion children have received the oral polio vaccine.  Reported polio cases have dropped 99.8 %, from 350,000 a year in 1988 to fewer than 2000 a year today.  Clarkston Rotarians Mary Sloan and Jeff Lichty participated in the effort by personally delivering the polio drops to children in northern India in 2005.

 Since 2009, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded $355 million to Rotary International in the global effort to eradicate polio, issuing the challenge that Rotarians worldwide would raise $200 million by June 2012.  That goal has been reached, and Clarkston Rotarians celebrated on Monday with a cake and a talk from District polio co-chair Virginia Barrons.  The fight is not over.  Polio is still endemic in four countries; India, Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan, although India just completed its first year without a new case reported.  We can’t quit until the job is done and no new cases have been reported in the world for three years.

 We have completed this round of funding, but the fight goes on and fundraising must continue.

 As long as polio threatens even one child anywhere in the world, children everywhere, including the United States, remain at risk. The stakes are that high.