The Polio Plus Program
In 1985, Rotary International launched PolioPlus, a 20-year commitment to eradicate polio. PolioPlus is one of the most ambitious humanitarian undertakings ever made by a private entity. It will serve as a paradigm for private-public collaborations in the fight against disease well into the 21st century.
As the polio-eradication program grew, so did Rotary's commitment and involvement. By 1990, Rotary moved from providing polio vaccine to children in developing countries to assisting health care workers in the field, providing training for laboratory personnel to track the polio virus and working with governments around the world in supporting the historic health drive. Rotary looks to celebrate the global eradication of polio in 2005, the organization's centennial year.
Financially: In 1985, Rotary was recognized by the World Health Organization as a non-governmental organization working in the field of international health. In the same year, Rotary set a goal to raise US$120 million to provide oral polio vaccine to newborns in the developing world. When the campaign ended, Rotary had doubled its goal, collecting more than $247 million. To date, the PolioPlus program has contributed $373 million to the protection of nearly 2 billion children. By 2005, Rotary's financial commitment will reach nearly $500 million.
On-the-ground assistance: With its community-based network worldwide, Rotary is the volunteer arm of the global partnership dedicated to eradicating polio. Rotary volunteers assist in vaccine delivery, social mobilization, and logistical help in co-operation with the national health ministries, WHO, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rotary's volunteer efforts were instrumental in the eradication of polio from the Western Hemisphere, which was certified polio-free in 1994.
Particularly notable in the region is Indonesia, which has an excellent primary health care system and regularly achieves high immunization coverage. National Immunization Days there reached 100% of the targeted 22 million children in 1997/98.
A volunteer worker marks a finger with a pen to indicate polio oral vaccine has been administered on this child.
Many of the gains in the Southeast Asia Region are due to the successful coordination and synchronization of NIDs in six countries, and with Pakistan. Furthermore, the countries have been able to achieve remarkable immunization coverage during NIDs.
Although the cases of polio declined dramatically after the NIDs in each country, the region is still a major global reservoir for wild polioviruses. India, for example, has accounted for more than half of the worlds reported polio cases each year between 1981 and 1994. In 1997, the proportion dropped to 44% of the world's cases. Hot and humid climates, large populations, and high population density provide ideal conditions for the transmission of polioviruses.
Consequently, polio has remained heavily endemic to India. Indonesia and Bangladesh are also significant sources of poliovirus in the region, despite impressive improvements during the past years.
Of highest priority in the SEAR region is the urgent development of a highly sensitive epidemiological and laboratory surveillance that meets standard performance criteria to guarantee identification of all remaining reservoirs of wild polio virus.