Events taking place in Orillia and Washago to aid polio eradication efforts


World Polio Day is being recognized around the world Oct. 24.

World Polio Day will raise funds and awareness for the fight to against this disease, which at one time threatened children around the world. Today, it is close to being eradicated. Rotary has been a part of this progress and will remain involved until no one is at risk from this crippling disease. Local Rotary clubs invite residents to join them and show support.

On Oct. 24, there will be walks in communities around the world to promote World Polio Day, including events hosted by the the Rotary Club of Orillia (walking from the Best Western Mariposa Inn, leaving at 5 p.m.) and the Rotary Club of Washago (walking from the Washago Community Centre, leaving at 5 p.m.).

Both walks are a part of Rotary’s 27-year mission to eradicate polio. Pre-registration is not required.

In honour of this day, the Rotary Club of Orillia will also donate $5,000 to Rotary’s Polio program. These funds will be matched two-to-one by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, resulting in a $15,000 contribution to Polio Plus.

“Our club has always supported this initiative, and this year we are glad to do more. We have come a very long way and we know that we are ‘this close’ to eradicating polio. But to be successful, we cannot let down our guard. Until we reach zero cases, all children remain at risk,” said Anne Zeigler, president of the Rotary Club of Orillia.

When Rotary started this initiative in 1985, there were 350,000 cases of polio per year. In 2016, there were 36 cases — a 99.9% decrease. Since 1985, Rotary has contributed nearly $1.2 billion and countless volunteer hours to the protection of more than two billion children in 122 countries. The disease remains endemic in three countries — Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. However, until the goal of zero cases is reached, all children remain at risk.

The message to world leaders is clear: Support the final push to achieve eradication now while the goal has never been closer, or face the potential consequences of a new polio pandemic that could disable millions of children within a decade.

Candy Potter, president of the Rotary Club of Washago, hopes everyone in Washago will join in this walk.

“This is a cause that matters to everyone,” she said. “By joining us on Oct. 24, you show your support for the continued fight to ensure that no child is ever affected by this disease again.”

Polio is a highly infectious disease that causes paralysis and can be fatal. As there is no cure, the best protection is prevention. For as little as US60 cents’ worth of vaccine, a child can be protected against the disease for life. After an international investment of more than US$9 billion, and the successful engagement of more than 200 countries and 20 million volunteers, polio could be the first human disease of the 21st century to be eradicated.

Polio eradication is spearheaded by the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the United Nations Children’s Fund. It includes the support of governments and other private-sector donors. 

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