Why It Matters
Every child deserves the right to walk, run, and play without fear of paralysis.  Although polio is largely unknown in industrialized nations, it is a disease that still robs children of that right in other parts of the world. It is transmitted via contaminated water and food supplies, enters through a child’s mouth, and then multiplies in the throat and intestines. In a matter of hours, the poliovirus can enter the brain and spinal cord, destroying the cells that enable muscles to contract and causing paralysis. In 5% to 10% of cases, the child dies.  The good news is that polio is completely preventable. Since the virus cannot live long outside the human body, the proper immunization of children can not only prevent the disease, it can eradicate it by stopping transmission of the virus. Although polio currently circulates in only a few countries, it is a highly infectious disease and spreads rapidly. As long as polio threatens even one child anywhere in the world, children everywhere are at risk. Only the complete eradication of polio will ensure that no child ever again suffers polio’s cruel effects.

How We Achieve It
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) is committed to achieving a polio-free world. Rotary is a spearheading partner in the GPEI, along with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation also has as a priority the eradication of polio and is working closely with the GPEI. The goal of the initiative is the global certification of polio eradication. The GPEI works to accomplish this goal by pursuing the four pillars of eradication:

Routine immunization – Immunization coverage of children in the first year of life, with at least three doses of the oral polio vaccine as part of national immunization schedules.

Supplementary immunization activities – Mass immunization campaigns, known as National Immunization Days (NIDs) or supplementary immunization activities (SIAs) intended to complement – not replace – routine immunization. They interrupt circulation of the virus by immunizing children under five with two doses of oral polio vaccine, regardless of previous immunization status.

Surveillance – Expert teams of virologists, epidemiologists, and doctors test stool samples to determine whether the poliovirus is present and from where it comes. 

Targeted mop-up campaigns – Door-to-door immunizations that are conducted in specific areas where the poliovirus is known to be present or is suspected of circulating. These are often areas with high population density, poor sanitation, or low routine immunization coverage.

Where We Are Today
Through the work of the GPEI, more than seven million people, mainly in the developing world, who would otherwise have been paralyzed, are walking because they have been immunized against polio, and more than 500,000 cases of polio are prevented each year due to the efforts of governments and the GPEI partnership. Transmission of the poliovirus has been stopped in all but three countries – Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan – and the virus is being contained within increasingly smaller geographic areas within those countries.

As part of the global polio eradication effort in 2010, 2.2 billion doses of the polio vaccine were administered to more than 400 million children during 309 vaccination campaigns in 40 countries. And there was a more than 90% drop in cases for one of the polio-endemic countries – Nigeria.

How Rotarians Contribute
The PolioPlus program is Rotary's top philanthropic priority. When Rotary launched the program in 1985, there were over 350,000 cases of polio worldwide in more than 125 countries.  Since then, Rotary has worked through the GPEI to help immunize more than two billion children and reduced the number of polio cases by 99%. By the time the world is certified polio free, Rotary’s contributions to the global polio eradication effort will exceed US$1.2 billion. This constitutes nearly 14% of all contributions to the global budget through 2010 and represents approximately 66% of private sector contributions to the initiative. More recently, Rotary worked with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help raise much needed funds to eradicate polio.  A total of over $1 billion was raised between December, 2007 and July, 2012.


How Funds Are Spent
In the early stages of the PolioPlus program, Rotary paid for oral vaccines and start-up costs for Rotarian-led social mobilization efforts in polio-endemic countries. Since the 1990s, Rotary has continuously worked with the spearheading partners in the GPEI to determine how funds can best be utilized to meet the needs of the program. The chart shows the current distribution of funding.

What Your Contributions Do (in US$):

                $60 – 100 children immunized against polio

                $100 – 200 posters promoting immunization

                $250 – 500 aprons to identify health workers, volunteers, and vaccinators

                $500 – 4,000 finger markers to identify children immunized

                $1,000 – 700 vaccine carriers to keep vaccines cold


How Rotarians Volunteer Their Time 

In addition to their fundraising efforts, Rotarians have made millions of dollars of in-kind and personal contributions through local Rotary clubs and districts for polio eradication activities. Of even greater significance has been the huge volunteer army mobilized by Rotary International. Hundreds of thousands of volunteers at the local level are providing support at clinics or mobilizing their communities for immunization or polio eradication activities. More than one million Rotarians worldwide have contributed to the success of the polio eradication effort to date.  In 1995, Rotary also launched a task force to advocate the cause of polio eradication to donor governments. This task force, later to be part of the Polio Advocacy Group, has resulted in more than US$7.8 billion to date in polio-specific grants from the public sector.

What Polio Eradication Costs

For 2012-13, an estimated US$1 billion annually from all sources is needed in donor contributions to fund eradication activities. The budget for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative is revised quarterly to reflect changes in epidemiology as well as financial contributions made by Rotary and other donors to the program.

Distribution of PolioPlus Grants 2002-11 (in US$ millions)

                Operational Support Costs $281.16 (56%)

                Surveillance $105.23 (21%)

                Social Mobilization $44.81 (9%)

                Technical Assistance $42.11 (8%)