Despite tremendous progress in reducing the incidence of polio, it still exists. Polio will continue to threaten children everywhere as long as it exists somewhere. In this age of global travel, a new outbreak of polio might only be a plane ride away.

There are significant reasons to be optimistic about achieving our goal of global polio eradication.

1. The number of polio cases has been reduced by a projected 99 percent since Rotary and partner agencies formed the global polio eradication initiative - from 350,000 in 1988 to fewer than 1300 in 2004.

2. Three of six regions of the world are free of the wild poliovirus.

3. Despite intensive surveillance efforts, one of the three types of viruses (Type II) that cause polio has not been seen since 1999. Could it be that it has already been eradicated? The World Health Organization will continue to promote active surveillance to determine this possibility.

Nevertheless, significant challenges lie ahead, including immunizing all children - even those in remote, conflict areas - maintaining political commitment to polio eradication.

Given the tremendous progress so far achieved, the prospects of achieving global polio eradication are high. Rotary looks forward to providing all children with a permanent gift - a world free of polio.

Did you know that . . .

  • Polio is a highly infectious disease that primarily affects children under the age of three and can cause paralysis within hours.

  • Before eradication efforts began in 1988, polio paralyzed more than 1,000 children a day, which totaled about 350,000 children annually. The incidence of polio has since declined by more than 99 percent.

  • Vaccinations easily can stave off polio. Vaccinations have prevented an estimated 500,000 children per year from contracting polio. A child can be protected against polio for as little as 60 cents (US) worth of vaccine.

  • Only four countries are still polio endemic - an all-time low: Nigeria, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

  • Rotary International is the spearheading member of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and is the largest private sector donor. It has contributed more than US$600 million to the polio eradication activities in 122 countries. In addition, tens of thousands of Rotarians have partnered with their national ministries of health, UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and with health providers at the grassroots level in thousands of communities.

A polio-free world is within our grasp. Join Rotary's effort to end this crippling disease. Learn more about Rotary's ongoing effort to eradicate polio and how you can help through contributions to PolioPlus and PolioPlus Partners.

The PolioPlus Division of The Rotary Foundation supports Rotarians' efforts to achieve Rotary International's and its Foundation's goal of the certification of the eradication of the wild poliovirus. This support includes the provision of quality education and information to promote the efforts of Rotarians directly involved in polio eradication activities, and the membership at large; facilitation of interaction, particularly between Rotarians in polio free and polio affected countries, collaboration with Rotary's partners in the Polio Eradication Initiative, and grants to Rotarians and partner organizations.