World Polio Day – where we are!

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Yesterday was World Polio day. Rotary International and Rotary Clubs around the world have been working tirelessly to eradicate polio the way smallpox was eliminated. They have done this by creating awareness about polio, fundraising for this worthy cause and working with partners who carry out the actual vaccinations. There is one of the videos creating awareness about Polio.

There are only three countries where the wild poliovirus has never been stopped: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. Until it is stopped, children everywhere remain at risk since polio is only a plane ride away. Kenya is now at risk with refugees coming in from Somalia who have not been vaccinated against polio and also some (few isolated cases) who have polio. Here are some current statistics about polio from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

Rotary, along with partners has reduced polio cases by 99 percent worldwide since their project to vaccinate children started in the Philippines in 1979.

The next five-year round of immunization against polio will cost an estimated USD 5.5 billion. This will be rolled out under a program known as Endgame Strategy, a plan by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), which provides a roadmap targeting eradication by 2018. This initiative builds on recent progress and addresses the challenges of insecurity and hard-to-reach children, and the need for affordable inactivated polio vaccines (IPV). The plan also looks beyond Polio into adapting the program’s infrastructure to deliver other vital health services to the world’s most vulnerable children.

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Rotary District Governor 9200 Harry Mugo said in a statement that fully funding the Polio eradication endgame will need about USD 5.5 billion over the next years where the global volunteer organization will work with local governments and other strategic partners to roll out national vaccination programs for children below five years of age.

There are the technical tools to end polio and the means to reach all children. A bivalent vaccine is now in use, to target type-1 and type-3 Polio in a single dose. This innovation is expected to positively impact on the campaign scheduled to commence in Kenya on November 1st in conjunction with the Ministry of Health.

DG Harry noted that globally, the rising number of Polio cases especially in Kenya, Djibouti and Somalia alarmed Rotarians. “Here in Kenya, Rotarians in each of the more than 60 clubs are raising funds in various ways to contribute towards the kitty to finance purchase and administration of the polio vaccine,” he added. Every dollar Rotarians raise, up to US$35 million a year, will be matched 2-to-1 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for polio eradication efforts through 2018.

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Mugo said that since the battle against polio was ramped up more than 25 years ago, only one per cent of the global population remained susceptible to the debilitating disease. “We are getting close to eradicating polio but we need to work harder to eliminate it just as small pox was. 256 reported polio cases were have been reported globally in 2013, a clear resurge from the under 250 reported in 2012,” he added.

“There is a Wild Polio Outbreak in the Horn of Africa that currently accounts for 70 per cent of cases worldwide. The Horn is also home to 70 per cent of unimmunized children in Africa. Kenya’s total number of confirmed cases in the current outbreak is 14 and the risk of not interrupting the current outbreak is huge. If we don’t stay the course, it is estimated that Polio could rebound to 10 million cases in the next 40 years, and would negate the world’s 9 billion dollar global investment in the initiative,” explained Mugo.

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