Posted by Pat Chernesky
Report of the District 5550 Polio Chair, Dr. Pat Chernesky
I am pleased and honoured to be the  “Polio Plus/End Polio Now” District Chair for 2020-2021! Thanks to DG Gailmarie for this exciting opportunity; I look forward to sharing news about progress in polio eradication by providing regular updates and assisting you in any way that I am able!
GOOD NEWS!! The WHO has certified the African region free of wild polio virus on August 25th, four years after the final case was recorded in Nigeria …. An incredible achievement worth celebrating after a decades long commitment by Rotarians, our partners, and millions of health care workers and supporters. We have shown that we can defeat this devastating disease but the fight is not over as wild polio still paralyzes children in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with 102 cases YTD. As long as polio exists anywhere, it remains a threat everywhere.
Rotarians are committed to raising $50 million annually to end polio with every dollar matched with TWO additional dollars from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. We DID reach our 2019-2020 goal, thanks to generous members and donors. Let’s keep up this momentum! We have the opportunity to be creative and innovative with virtual fundraising in these times, so please share your successes. New ideas will help and inspire us all in this journey …..
This World Polio Day, on October 24th, let’s share information through social  and local media, perhaps host a virtual event (RI has a toolkit which can be downloaded), telling our communities about the importance of our efforts to eradicate polio. Please have your Mayors declare October 24th as World Polio Day in your community ….. it would be awesome if each and every city/town with a Rotary Club in our District would do this …. A challenge for you, and a great Public Image activity!
Rotarians can stay focused on eradicating polio even as we face a pandemic of a virus for which there is not yet a vaccine, similar to the polio situation not so long ago! While confronting this challenge, the most important thing that members can do to continue the fight to end polio is sustain our commitment here. Attention to polio eradication may be diverted in the midst of this pandemic, but this makes it all the more vital for us to remain strongly committed to fighting polio and not let our progress be eroded.
Countries have been advised to pause polio immunization campaigns during the COVID-19 response but surveillance will continue to avoid a resurgence of polio.
Many members and Clubs are supporting the COVID-19 response; hopefully Rotarians will see that polio & COVID-19 are dual priorities and support them both to the extent that they are able. It is not either/or but both are of great importance.
The Polio infrastructure which Rotary helped build, including its tools, workforce and extensive surveillance networks are used to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by supporting preparedness and response activities in many countries, including Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. This is truly the PLUS in Polio Plus! Building on decades of experience stopping polio outbreaks, Rotary and its partners have a critical role to play in this pandemic just as we did in the past to respond to outbreaks of Ebola, yellow fever and Avian flu.
Thank You for your anticipated support in 2020-2021!