• 25-APR-2012

  • SOURCE: Rotary International

Rotary honors U.S. lawmakers for leadership in polio eradication

Rotary Celebrates India's First Polio-Free Year
Rotary International will recognize seven members of Congress as Polio Eradication Champions on April 24, at the United States Capitol Building.

Rotary established the Polio Eradication Champion Award in 1995 to honor heads of state and others who have made a significant global contribution to ending polio. Since the 1980s, the United States government has contributed more than $2 billion to polio eradication.Those honored include: Senator Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), Senator Richard Shelby (Alabama), Representative Steve Austria (Ohio), Representative Norm Dicks (Washington), Representative Tom Price (Georgia), Representative Denny Rehberg (Montana), and Representative Harold Rogers (Kentucky).

"Thanks to the leadership of the U.S. government, we are closing in on a historic victory over polio," said Jim Lacy, past president of Rotary International. "But the fight is not over—we need others to step up their efforts to ensure that this initiative does not fail."

Polio, a disease that affected scores of Americans during epidemics into the 1950s, has been reduced by 99% worldwide, but it still paralyzes children in parts of the world. There is no cure for polio, but for as little as 60 cents, a child can be protected against the disease for life. Mass immunization campaigns have reduced the number of polio cases from 350,000 annually in the mid-1980s, to fewer than 700 reported cases in 2011. India, once the global epicenter of the disease, was removed from the polio-endemic list in February.

Despite this success, challenges remain in the three polio-endemic countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria. The initiative is also threatened by a funding gap that exceeds $1 billion for 2012-13.

Rotary made polio eradication its top priority in 1985, and in 1988 helped launch the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. As the original private sector contributor and volunteer arm of this global partnership, Rotary has contributed more than $1 billion and countless volunteer hours to the effort.

Rotary is a worldwide organization of business and professional leaders who provide humanitarian service and help to build goodwill and peace in the world. Rotary's global membership is approximately 1.2 million men and women who belong to more than 34,000 Rotary clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas. For images and broadcast quality video visit Rotary's Media Center.