The last reported case of the poliovirus in Nigeria was a landmark triumph for Rotarian fundraisers across the country.
Rotary International has donated $688.5 million to fight polio in Africa, including a $200 million cash injection to the cause in Nigeria.
Rotary Club of Invermere spokesperson Milt Deck credits the Rotarian community for supporting the cause with a wide variety of fundraising initiatives, such as the PolioPlus program to help thwart the debilitating disease.
“It is a disease that can be controlled, and it was immobilizing and crippling people around the world in large numbers,” said Mr. Deck. “By us (Rotarians) doing the eradication (fundraising efforts), we’re improving the lives of so many people by not being inflicted with polio. It’s an ongoing fundraiser.”
The Columbia Valley alone has contributed $16,852 to the polio cause over the past several years, which is a figure that is matched by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“For a long time, they (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) matched dollar for dollar — but, currently, for every dollar that we donate, they match it for two dollars,” explained Mr. Deck.
Polio spreads from person to person, invading the brain and spinal cord and causing paralysis because there is no cure, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. After the spread of the poliovirus was previously stopped, it was then reintroduced and continues to spread in the Horn of Africa, Cameroon and Syria.
However, the spread of polio has never stopped in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.
Today, Nigeria has reported no new cases of the poliovirus in one year, which is the longest the country has gone without a case. This means it could be removed from the list of polio-endemic countries this September.
Rotarians believe it’s an important cause to support because the possibility to eradicate polio is a strong and worthwhile cause.
“We have to keep working on it,” said Mr. Deck. “Just because we’ve got the numbers greatly reduced doesn’t mean that the threat is gone. The wild poliovirus is still out there and with all of the refugee camps that are being built now because of the unrest in the Middle East, there’s a chance that the immunization program isn’t getting all the children, so we could have an outbreak again. It could be back to very big numbers in a very short time.”
Visit vimeo.com/133494480 to watch a video featuring Rotary International president K.R. Ravindran on polio eradication in Nigeria. Visit endpolio.org to learn more about Rotary’s poliovirus mission.