Rotary’s World Polio Day event looks ahead to ending the disease for good

Dennis Ogbe, Paralympian and polio survivor, tells his personal story of the disease at Rotary’s World Polio Day event on 24 October 2016 at the headquarters of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
Photo Credit: Rotary International/Alyce Henson

While the fight to eradicate polio suffered a blow this year when the virus re-emerged in Nigeria, Rotary leaders and top health experts focused Monday on the big picture: the global presence of the paralyzing disease has never been smaller.

The headquarters of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, served as the site of Rotary’s fourth annual World Polio Day event. Some of the biggest names in the polio eradication campaign were there to reflect on the year’s progress and discuss what’s needed to end the disease for good.

More than 200 people attended the special live program, and thousands more worldwide watched online. Jeffrey Kluger, Time magazine’s editor at large, moderated the event.

In a question-and-answer session with Kluger, CDC Director Tom Frieden talked about the latest developments in the effort to eradicate polio.

“We have the fewest number of cases in the fewest number of places in the world right now,” said Frieden. “We continue to make ground against polio, but we’re still recording cases in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria.”

The total number of cases worldwide so far this year is 27, compared with 51 for the same period last year.

Unfortunately, Nigeria slipped back onto the list of countries where polio is endemic this year, after cases appeared in the northern state of Borno, which was under the control of Boko Haram militants until recently. The World Health Organization estimates that the virus has been circulating in the region for five years. The country was on the verge of celebrating two years without any polio infections.

But this hasn’t stopped Rotary and its partners, who are working with the Nigerian government, Chad, Cameroun, and parts of the Central African Republic, from executing a sweeping emergency response. Shortly after the outbreak, a robust immunization campaign targeted about 1 million children with both oral and inactivated polio vaccines.

“Because the new cases were only detected due to ongoing surveillance efforts,” said Frieden.  “We shouldn’t be surprised to see more cases, because better surveillance means better detection of all polio cases.”

Polio eradication efforts continue to make progress in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Afghanistan, cases dropped from 13 in 2015 to eight so far this year. In Pakistan, they decreased from 38 to 15.

Frieden cited innovative tactics for reaching children in Pakistan who were often missed in the past. These include placing permanent vaccination sites at entry points to the country, provinces, and large cities. Rotary has funded the purchase of cell phones for vaccination teams, so they can send data to health centers immediately.

“The virus is cornered, we just have to make sure never to let it out again,” Frieden added.

Celebrities join Rotary’s gathering

Dennis Ogbe, a polio survivor and Paralympian athlete, told his personal story of survival. Ogbe contracted polio at age three at a clinic near his home in rural Nigeria while being treated for malaria.

Ogbe competed in the Paralympics in Sydney in 2000 and London in 2012. But he says the toughest challenge he’s faced is helping to rid the world of polio.

Shira Lazar, host of the show “What’s Trending,” gave a social media update during the live streamed event in which she announced that more than 3,000 World Polio Day events were happening around the world. In Pakistan, a huge End Polio Now message was illuminated at the Kot Diji Fort in the Khairpur district.

Video addresses came from Maryn McKenna, author and journalist, and new polio ambassador Jenna Bush Hager, chair of UNICEF’s Next Generation, a journalist, and an author. Hager’s father-in-law is a polio survivor.

Rotary, with support from the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, also debuted a virtual reality presentation that transported attendees to the streets of India and Kenya, where they interacted with polio survivors and heard their stories.

“This is very good technology to put people in places where polio has affected so many,” says Reza Hossaini, director of polio eradication for UNICEF. “It’s important we see the places and people we are helping with our polio eradication programs.”

Earlier in the day, Frieden and Rotary International President John F. Germ announced major contributions to polio eradication. The Canadian government committed $10 million, and Michael Bloomberg, businessman, philanthropist, and former mayor of New York City, donated $25 million.

Rotary has contributed more than $1.6 billion to polio eradication since taking on the virus in 1979.

“We started this more than 30 years ago,” said Germ. “We’ve stuck with it all this time. And soon, we’re going to finish it.”

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Rotary News



#1   Submitted By Lucila Ocampo D... on 25-Oct-2016 05:04 pm

Rotary Club de Cusco, Perú,D4455,  celebramos el Dia Mundial contra la polio;  con nuestra presencia  en el desfile  dominical en la Plaza principal de nuestra ciudad,  en presencia de las autoridades cusqueñas y muchas instituciones que ese día se dieron cita .Nos presentamos con dos grandes carteles de : Rotary International End Polio Now" y " estamos acabando con la Polio". Enviamos notas de prensa para publicitar este importante dia a medios radiales y televisivos. También hemos aportado en la cuenta de Polio $ 1080 dólares. Haciendonos de esta forma presentes.

#2   Submitted By Rafael Llausas ... on 25-Oct-2016 09:33 pm

Felicidades, vayamos hasta la erradicacion

#3   Submitted By Carlos Del Cast... on 26-Oct-2016 01:05 pm

Es importante que todos los club de rotaros en el mundo participemos en actividades, esto ayudaría mucho a las organizaciones que están al frente del problema, el club perla de Tumaco Distrito 4281, se vincula a la celebración del, día mundial de la erradicación de la polio, haciendo difusión por tolos medios radiales y televisivos.

#4   Submitted By Carlos Gayoso Arias on 26-Oct-2016 01:33 pm

Socio del club rotario de Chiclayo Sur distrito 4465. Es muy conmovedor  ver como los seres humanos nos volvemos cada vez más solidarios  en estos tiempos tan difíciles  donde convivimos con la delincuencia, la drogadicción, el sicariato, etc; por ello es necesario que los rotarios participemos activamente con nuestra presencia en hacer conocer al mundo nuestra labor humanitaria con los niños, quienes son la primavera de la humanidad y a la vez contribuir con nuestros aportes económicos a la Fundación Rotaria; porque solo unidos con un solo fin, con  una sola meta, podremos festejar el próximo año el fin del flagelo de la humanidad  la Poliomilitis que ataca a los más desamparados del mundo .... los niños.  

#5   Submitted By Serafim Melo on 26-Oct-2016 04:16 pm

Estamos chegando proximo de um dia 24 de outubro, no qual vamos celebrar a inexistencia de casos de polio no mundo. Para isso é um imperativo, para cada um de nós rotarianos, apoiar como puder essa campanha do Rotary de irradicar a polio da face da terra.


Saudações rotárias e Rubro Negras.

Serafim Carvalho Melo

Governador 10-11 Distrito 4440

Rotary Club de Cuiabá

Classificação: Geologia-Produção Mineral

#6   Submitted By Obioma Obikeze on 27-Oct-2016 04:16 pm

There's no doubt Rotary has so far stood tall among the global army against polio. Here in Nigeria, not a few citizens were disappointed over the 're-emergence' of wild polio virus in the northeastern part of the country. Nevertheless, the Nigerian government, its polio partners and especially Rotarians are more than prepared to do all that is required to sign polio's obituary from this part of the world. 

#7   Submitted By Lucio Oscar Gon... on 27-Oct-2016 08:11 pm

En Cochabamba Bolivia el 24 se realizaron importantes actos, 2 que destacaron Simposio de la Polio, organizada por la sociedad boiliviana de neurologia filial cochabamba, donde el presidente del Colegio Medico de Bolivia entrego una placa de reconocimiento al Gobernador del distrito 4690 Dr. Alfredo Villarooel y destaco una presentacion de gala en un teatro de musica Jazz. Esto nos motiva a no bajar los brazos y ya estamos preparando una mejor accion de celebrar el dia mundial de la Polio del proximo año

#8   Submitted By IBIDAPO OJO on 28-Oct-2016 02:01 pm

I love Rotary

#9   Submitted By Margaret Traino... on 29-Oct-2016 10:20 am

We will eradicate this horrible disease by 2018 I am secure in the knowledge that this is number one for most Rotarians ....#purpleforpoliogardens