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Date Published: 11/13/10

Rotary funds half-million dollar emergency response to polio outbreak in Congo


Partners UNICEF and WHO to conduct immediate immunization activities in high-risk areas 

Evanston, Ill., USA (Nov. 12, 2010) – In response to a recent outbreak ( of wild poliovirus in the Republic of Congo, Rotary is providing a total of US$500,000 in emergency grants to UNICEF and the World Health Organization for immediate countrywide polio immunization campaigns. The outbreak requires urgent action by government and partner agencies to again make the country polio-free.

The emergency grants will support immunization activities scheduled to take place in Congo. According to the World Health Organization, at least three national vaccination campaigns are planned to combat the outbreak. They also anticipate a multi-country campaign to protect bordering at-risk countries. 

The current outbreak is due to imported poliovirus from another country or region — Congo’s last case of indigenous polio was recorded in 2000.

“Polio outbreaks highlight our global vulnerability to infectious disease,” said Dr. Robert Scott, chair of Rotary’s International PolioPlus Committee. “It reinforces the fact that polio ’control’ is not an option, and only successful eradication will stop the disease.”

Outbreaks of imported cases are not uncommon during eradication efforts, underscoring the critical need to stop polio transmission in the remaining polio-endemic countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and India. 

“Our experience shows that where polio transmission has been stopped before, it can be stopped again,” said Scott.  “A fast, large-scale, high-quality immunization response using the new tools at hand, along with strong surveillance, is absolutely critical.”

A highly infectious disease that most commonly affects children, polio can cause paralysis and sometimes death.  As there is no cure, the best protection is prevention. For as little as 60 cents worth of vaccine, a child can be protected against this crippling disease for life.

With its spearheading partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative—the World Health Organization, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF—Rotary’s commitment to end polio represents the largest private-sector support of a global health initiative ever.  Since 1985, Rotary has contributed more than $900 million to polio eradication.

Rotary is currently working to raise an additional $200 million in response to a $355 challenge grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  The resulting $555 million funds polio eradication activities in the remaining endemic and high-risk countries. 

Besides raising and contributing funds, the million men and women of Rotary have volunteered their time and personal resources to help immunize more than 2 billion children in 122 countries. 

Rotary International is one of the world’s largest non-profit humanitarian service organizations.  It is comprised of 1.2 million business and professional leaders in more than 200 countries and geographical regions. In addition to polio eradication, Rotary members initiate community projects that address many of today’s most critical issues, such as clean water, health, hunger and the environment.

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Distributed by the African Press Organization on behalf of Rotary International.


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