Recognizing this commitment — as well as Rotary’s important role as a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative — the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently awarded Rotary a US$250 million challenge grant, which Rotary will match with an additional $100 million.
This raises to $550 million the total funds generated by the two organizations since the Gates Foundation awarded its first $100 million challenge grant to Rotary in 2007. The funds are dedicated to polio eradication activities in polio-endemic and high-risk countries.
Although polio epidemics may be a distant memory in most of the developed world — the last case of naturally occurring polio in the United States occurred in 1979, and cases have been reduced by 99 percent worldwide — it still threatens children in parts of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. But for as little as 60 cents worth of oral polio vaccine, a child can be protected for life.
However, a major funding gap now faces the polio eradication initiative. Twenty years of steady progress is at stake, and polio could stage a dangerous comeback unless additional resources are secured, which is why Rotary and the Gates Foundation have forged this historic funding agreement.
Since launching its landmark PolioPlus program in 1985, Rotary, an international humanitarian service organization, already has contributed more than $700 million to the cause, in addition to countless volunteer hours logged by Rotary club members worldwide. With that kind of track record, Rotary readily accepted the funding challenge from the Gates Foundation. Rotary’s membership of 1.2 million women and men — representing 33,000 clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas — embraced the effort by digging deeper into their own pockets, planning special fundraisers, and rallying community support. They know that the goal of a polio-free world is within reach, and that success is the only option.
To learn how you can participate in this historic opportunity to end polio once and for all, please visit http://www.rotary.org/en/EndPolio/Pages/ridefault.aspx.
Bill Gates Jr. administers oral polio vaccine to a child in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Polio Eradication – “You can do it” from Rotary International on Vimeo.