Behind the Rotarian Contribution for Polio Eradication

Did you know that in countries like Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan, the disease polio remains an epidemic? Though worldwide polio cases are reportedly at an all-time low, in the endemic countries, polio cases are actually increasing. Rotary International has stepped up its commitment to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, donating $75 million toward eliminating the viral disease. Rotary International and the Rotary Foundation have been working for over 25 years to rid the world of polio, donating over $1 billion to the cause.

Rotary International is in good company in its polio eradication efforts, partnering with the Bill Melinda Gates Foundation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and the United Nations. All of which ramped up their efforts due to a nearly $1 billion funding gap. This huge deficit in funding is due in part to decreasing financial support from governments, thanks to the decline in the global economy.

Related: Gates Foundation: Grants for Global Health

Polio doesn't seem to receive as much attention as, say, Malaria or HIV/AIDS. Given that fact, I set out to learn a bit more about the disease so that I could fully understand the importance of Rotary International's $75 million donation.

First, Rotary International and the Gates Foundation have completed 99 percent of their eradication efforts and are now working on the final one percent push to end the disease completely through the End Polio Now campaign. The focus is on the three countries in which polio remains endemic, and those countries are Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan. Afghanistan saw a 220 percent increase in cases, Nigeria, 195 percent and Pakistan, 37 percent. If these increases aren't curbed, the number of incidents in these areas will only increase, and possibly spread to other countries. Estimations are upwards of over 200,000 children becoming infected by 2022 should eradication efforts stall.

Related: Rotary International Isn't Finished with Polio

Both Rotary International and the Gates Foundation state a number of reasons as to the cause of the increase in polio infections, including the $1 billion funding gap, geographical barriers to care, regional conflict, and political changes. Forbes writer Matthew Harper adds that "the fake vaccination campaigns used by the CIA to try to capture Osama bin Laden may be hurting the polio effort."