Thursday, February 2, 2012

St. George Rotary Club celebrates milestones in fight to kill Polio

St. George Rotary Club President, Linda Baker, is shown next to a poster used to track funding toward the club's PolioPlus assessment following the Club Assembly on Monday, January 30. The club surpassed their assessment raising $10,483.95.
St. George, Utah — During their quarterly Club Assembly, members of the St. George Rotary Club celebrated local and international milestones in the fight to eradicate polio. Locally, the club marked fulfillment of their obligation to raise $200 million in funds as part of two challenge grants totaling $355 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to Rotary International.

The club raised $10,483.95 toward the effort since 2008 and surpassed their assessment of $10,036.05 well before the June 30 deadline.

“It is exciting to have met our goal,” exulted club president, Linda Baker, during the meeting. “This assessment came when we had 118 members before the start of the recession, but we met the goal even though our club membership is almost half.”

Nearly half of the funds were raised by club member contributions made since April of 2011 in two donation drives that brought in nearly $5,000.

“It took some real leadership by our club presidents these past two years not to let us hang our heads in discouragement when we had only achieved half of our assessed goal and had half as many members,” club secretary, Richard Isom pointed out to those in attendance at the meeting. “Instead, they inspired us to reach deep and finish what we had started.”

Rotary International’s PolioPlus effort began in 1979 with a five-year commitment to provide polio vaccine to children in the Philippines. In 1985, the program was formally established with a goal to vaccinate all children in the world against the crippling and deadly disease with a goal of eradicating it completely. The efforts and commitment of Rotary is credited with rallying the global health community whom have been partners with Rotary in this effort.

This is not the first time the St. George Rotary Club has stepped in to provide significant funding to this effort. In 2002, the club raised over $16,000 to support the effort as part of an $80 million campaign to close a funding gap at that time.

Polio eradication has been Rotary’s top priority since 1985, with more than $1.2 billion contributed to the effort. Rotary International also announced this month that they had retired their obligation under the challenge grants having raised $202.6 million as of January 17. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation committed an addition $50 million in January.

Since 1988, the incidence of polio has plummeted by more than 99 percent, from about 350,000 cases annually to fewer than 650 cases reported so far for 2011. The wild poliovirus is now endemic in only four countries: Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan. However, India on 13 January marked a full calendar year without a case, paving the way for its removal from the endemic list. 

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