Special to The Lake Report
As part of the final push of a nearly 45-year worldwide campaign to eradicate polio, the Rotary Club of Niagara-on-the-Lake raised $22,263 in its annual Participate for Polio charity ride this fall.
NOTL Rotarian Cosmo Condina single-handedly brought in more than half that amount, raising over $11,000.
A longtime Rotary member, Condina is active in the club’s international projects and has been a dedicated supporter of the polio project.
This year’s ride was the latest step along the road to ending polio.
On Sept. 29, 1979, Rotarians administered drops of oral polio vaccine to children in Guadalupe Viejo, Makati, Philippines.
That was the genesis of what is now Rotary International’s mission to eradicate polio around the world.
Then, in 1988, Rotary International and the World Health Organization launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
At the time, there were an estimated 350,000 cases of polio in 125 countries and polio paralyzed more than 1,000 children worldwide every day.
While there remains no cure for polio, it is preventable with a vaccine.
In the years since then, more than 2.5 billion children have been immunized against polio, thanks to the co-operation of more than 200 countries and 20 million volunteers.
In the past 35 years, Rotary has raised more than $2.6 billion (U.S.) and members have volunteered countless hours in the effort to eradicate polio.
Together with its partners, Rotary helps immunize more than 400 million children every year. Since 1988, cases have been reduced by 99.9 per cent.
Polio mainly affects children under five. It spreads from person to person and can infect the spinal cord, causing permanent paralysis and death.
Polio cases peaked in Canada in 1953 with nearly 9,000 cases and 500 deaths.
Most of us have long forgotten the devastating impact of the disease, as North America was declared polio-free in 1994.
Polio shots have been part of the routine, mandatory vaccine schedule in Canada for decades.
Worldwide, we are in the last mile of eradicating the disease forever, but that last mile will require a further $2.5 billion (U.S.) investment and take another three to five years.
Only two countries remain endemic: Afghanistan, which has had six cases in 2023, and Pakistan, with two cases.
However, the job is not done until we are polio-free for three consecutive years, globally.
Unless we eradicate polio, within 10 years, as many as 200,000 new cases could occur annually around the world.
In 1980, the World Health Organization declared smallpox eradicated – the only infectious disease to achieve this distinction.
We’re close to ending the second human disease in history.
Next Tuesday, Oct. 24, is World Polio Day and working together we can end polio, forever.
For more information or to donate, go to endpolio.org.
- Guest speaker: Join the NOTL Rotary Club on Oct. 24 at noon at the community centre for lunch and to hear our guest speaker Dr. Mustafa Hirji, associate medical officer of health for Niagara Region. He will be speaking about infectious diseases and how we can mitigate them. Lunch is $20. Register via email at email@example.com by Oct. 20.
Bill French is a member of the Rotary Club of Niagara-on-the-Lake.