Posted by Paul Stromborg, MD
Here is an update on the status of the RI Polio Plus program and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) as of mid-July 2017.
First let me recap briefly the history of Polio Plus and Rotary International for some newer members who are perhaps not yet that well informed about this great international endeavor.
In 1979 Rotarians initiated a polio eradication program in the Philippines and it was successful.
In 1985 RI started the Polio Plus campaign and by 1988 it became a global endeavor with international partners.  We were off on one of the most momentous public health campaigns in humankind history since the eradication of smallpox in the world.
Our partners include Rotary International, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), UNICEF, World Health Organization (WHO), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and several nation states.
            Since 1985, Rotarians and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have contributed $1.5 billion.
            10 billion doses of oral polio vaccine have been given to children.
            16 million people are walking today that would have been paralyzed by polio.
             Status of endemic countries YTD in 2017:
               Afghanistan: 4
               Pakistan: 3
               Nigeria: 0
               Syria: 23
               Democratic Republic of Congo: 4
While we are making great progress in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria, there has been an outbreak in Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, areas on persistent and ongoing conflict.  The consequence of mayhem and destruction in these areas weakens or eliminates existing public health infrastructure such as sanitation and health facilities.  Polio virus thrives in poor sanitary conditions so common in developing countries.  Poor hygiene habits also contribute to the spread and persistence of this virus.
One benefit of the extensive experience and infrastructure of the GPEI is that public health officials can detect new emergence of the virus and react quickly to try and contain the outbreak with education and re-immunization.  (The world was able to quickly contain the Ebola outbreak due to the presence of existing surveillance systems and trained personnel essential to stop the spread).
To achieve a Polio –free world we still need,
1.       To immunize 400 million children in 60 countries every year.
2.      150,000 polio funded workers in 70 countries.
3.      Essential disease surveillance activities in 70 countries
a.      Monitor fecal samples for presence of the virus
b.      Monitor sewage  for same.
4.       Where the money went last year?  Three countries needed –
a.      256,428 vaccinators
b.      6751 cars
c.       1530 motorbikes
d.      1150 carts
e.      17 boats
Stopping the GPEI now would lead to 200,000 cases of paralytic polio in 10 years.  Porous international borders, large refugee population migrations, and the ease of international travel would expose the entire world to polio again.  Finishing the job of polio eradication is projected to save the global community $40 - $50 billion dollars by 2035 (90% in developing countries).
Every Rotarian must continue their resolve to not let this great project fail and continue to support the GPIE.  We are all part of the biggest public health campaign since the eradication of smallpox.  Eliminating polio from the world will be a great part of our Rotarian legacy, and something we can all brag about to our families and friends. 
Remember, for every $1.00 you contribute, it is matched by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  MAKE A DIFFERENCE is the annual motto put forward by RI President Ian H.S. Riseley, so let’s all pitch and get this done!
Contributions can be made online at the R.I. site, or through you club treasurer.  Polio Plus contributions count towards Paul Harris awards. 
Paul Stromborg, MD
District 6420 End Polio Chair