Guest column/Steubenville Rotary has helped in war on polio

As president of the Steubenville Rotary Club, I bring you good news! The end of polio is within sight due to the efforts of the 1.2 million Rotarians in our world, and the 54 members of our local club.

Polio was a paralyzing and potentially fatal disease by the 1950s, but the development of the Salk vaccine in 1955 allowed polio to be tackled through the mass vaccination of children. Rotary has contributed more than $ 1.7 billion and countless volunteer hours to immunize more than 2.5 billion children in 122 countries around the world. Rotary’s advocacy efforts have played a role in decisions by donor governments to contribute more than $ 7.2 billion to the effort.

Rotary launched PolioPlus in 1985 to rid the world of polio. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, formed three years later, is a public-private partnership that includes Rotary International, the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as well as world governments.

Polio has gone from 350,000 new cases every year to just 37 new cases in 2016, which were concentrated in the countries of Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. Until polio is eradicated, all countries of the world remain at risk of outbreaks.

In 2017, we’ve seen only seven new cases of polio in the world, and experts feel that we are within reach of the eradication of polio.

Rotary International will raise $50 million per year for the next three years, with every dollar to be matched by two additional dollars from the Gates Foundation.

These funds help provide much-needed operational support, medical personnel, laboratory equipment and educational materials for health workers and parents — with assistance from corporations and private individuals.

Oct. 24 marks World Polio Day in the world, a day that has been set aside to raise awareness, funds and support to end polio in our world, and we are so close.

Rotary International, working through our Steubenville Rotary Club and our fundraising projects and the 1.2 million Rotary Club members in 35,000 Rotary Clubs in more than 200 countries around the world, are improving the lives of everyone through the eradication of polio.

I personally was vaccinated in 1956 during the early rounds of immunization of the children of the world, and it is important and exciting to experience the end of polio in our world.

(Hall, a resident of Steubenville, is president of the Steubenville Rotary Club.)