Eradicating Polio

  • Overseas
  • 1985

In 1985, the fraternal organization Rotary International began a major project to battle polio. Since then, Rotarians have contributed more than $850 million plus hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours to eliminate the disease. The goal soon became global eradication of the polio virus by around 2018.

In 2008, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation started contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to Rotary’s efforts. With support from other donors and a few international agencies, a final mass-immunization effort was launched. It has reduced the number of children paralyzed by polio from more than a thousand a day back when Rotary’s effort began to much less than one case per day at present. Today, only two or three countries still harbor the wild polio virus, and a concerted effort is under way to render it extinct as soon as possible—which would end a scourge than has plagued humanity since at least the time of the Egyptian pharaohs.

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