Rotary International is asking the world to join their fight against polio. Here’s why.
The global eradication of polio has been Rotary International‘s highest priority since 1985. Spanning 200 countries and made up of 34,000 clubs, their 1.2 million “Rotarians” could essentially be a country unto themselves. But despite their size and in light of the brutal attacks on health workers, including some of their own, who were trying to combat polio in Pakistan, Rotary needs more help now than ever. Polio, a crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease, has been 99% eradicated, but not finishing the job could mean it paralyzes 10 million children under the age of five over the next 40 years. From an economic perspective, some studies suggest that eradicating polio within the next five years could free up some $50 billion – money that could be spent on malaria or other global health issues. Considering that we have an effective vaccine and for just US$0.60 a child can be protected against the disease for life, it seems obvious to close out this chapter in global health with a bang.
Rotary is embracing the power of technology and social media to make this bang a reality. You can help by joining celebrities, leaders and others from around the world – more than 3,000 in 100 countries so far – in the World’s Biggest Commercial. To take part, visit EndPolio.org, upload a photo making the “this close” gesture and then share it to your social media networks along with the hashtag #EndPolioNow. Here’s the promotional video:
How can your part in a commercial possibly help eradicate a disease? For starters, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are considered the last strongholds of polio. The “this close” campaign is essentially trying to do the opposite of what often happens when a disease is on the verge of being wiped out: people simply forgetting about it. This has happened in many places throughout the world in the fight against malaria and HIV/AIDS. Medical and educational resources are poured in, the numbers drop and with it the awareness drops. It is Rotary’s hope that if millions of people around the world are uploading their photo, possibly breaking a Guinness World Record in the process, and sending the message out to their social networks, that polio will be on the minds of more people than ever precisely as worldwide eradication is close to being a reality.
Cameron Conaway is a Rotary International History Maker.