Rotary, Gates Foundation partner to boost polio endgame support
By Dan Nixon and Arnold R. Grahl
The Rotary International Convention in Lisbon, Portugal, set the stage for the announcement of a bold new chapter in the partnership between Rotary and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for polio eradication.
“Going forward, The Gates Foundation will match two-to-one, up to US$35 million per year, every dollar Rotary commits to reduce the funding shortfall for polio eradication through 2018,” said Jeff Raikes, the foundation’s chief executive officer, in a prerecorded video address shown during the plenary session 25 June. “If fully realized, the value of this new partnership with Rotary is more than $500 million. In this way, your contributions to polio will work twice as hard.
” The joint effort, called End Polio Now – Make History Today, comes during a critical phase of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. The estimated cost of the 2013-18 Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan is $5.5 billion. Funding commitments, announced at the Global Vaccine Summit in April, total $4 billion. The $1.5 billion funding gap must be met; otherwise, immunization levels in polio-affected countries will decrease. If polio rebounds, more than 200,000 children worldwide could be paralyzed every year within a decade.
Rotary and the Gates Foundation are determined not to let polio come back. “We will combine the strength of Rotary’s network with our resources and together with the other partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative we will not just end a disease, but change the face of public health forever,” said Raikes.
In 2007, the Gates Foundation gave The Rotary Foundation a $100 million challenge grant for polio eradication and, in 2009, increased it to $355 million. Rotary agreed to raise $200 million in matching funds by 30 June 2012. Rotarians ended up raising $228.7 million toward the challenge.
“Now is the time for us all to take action – talk to your government leaders, share your polio story with your social networks, and encourage others to join you in supporting this historic effort,” Raikes added. “When Rotarians combine the passion for service along with the power of a global network, you are unstoppable, and the Gates Foundation is proud to partner with you. Let’s make history and End Polio Now.
” Bruce Alyward, assistant director-general for Polio, Emergencies and Country Collaboration at the World Health Organization, encouraged Rotarians that the finish line for polio eradication is in sight, but cautioned that “it is one thing to see the finish line, it is another to cross it.
” Sharing details of the latest polio eradication strategic plan, he said the plan is historic in finally setting out the polio end game, the final steps needed to totally eradicate polio.
“We now have the plan to complete the program of PolioPlus,” Aylward said. “And we have backing of you, Rotarians around the world, to get the job done.”
Actress Archie Panjabi, a Rotary polio eradication ambassador, shared how she spent two years living in India when she was 10 years old, and witnessed children crawling along the streets using only their hands. The image troubled her for years. When she was asked to join Rotary’s “This Close” campaign in 2011, she realized the children were polio victims, and that by working to eliminate polio, she could help prevent any other children from suffering in that way.
“I came to realize that we still have work to do, and how important it is for people like me – people like you – to use our voices to raise awareness of – and support for the global effort to eradicate polio,” Panjabi said. “As a Rotary Polio Ambassador, I will continue to do whatever I can to spread the word.
” John Germ, vice chair of the International PolioPlus Committee, asked Rotarians to reach out to their non-Rotarian colleagues to raise money for polio eradication. He also introduced Nigerian Rotarian Sir Emeka Offor, who announced he is making a new US$1 million contribution to PolioPlus.
During a PolioPlus Advocacy workshop a day earlier, Offor explained that his contributions to a number of causes have been motivated by his recollection of his humble origins, growing up with only modest means. Now that he has established himself as a successful businessman, he said, he enjoys giving so that he can help others avoid the circumstances he faced.
As a Rotarian, he said he takes pride in the good work Rotary is doing and in Rotary’s leadership in the polio eradication campaign. “I hope my means will inspire others to join the fight to end polio in Nigeria,” Offor said. “Polio can be eradicated in my country in my lifetime and it will be.”
Also during the plenary, Rotary Foundation Trustee Chair Wilfrid Wilkinson reviewed the good work The Rotary Foundation is accomplishing, and all that has been possible because Rotary leadership made a single momentous decision in the 1960s to use Foundation grants to fund Rotary service.
“Because of the one moment … because of their ambition, I can look back, with all of you, at fifty incredible years of achievements through our Foundation— of lives that we have touched, lives that we have saved, lives to which we have brought health, education, and hope,” Wilkinson said. “And we can look ahead, in just a few years now, to a world free of polio.
” Dong Kurn Lee, incoming Rotary Foundation Trustee chair, announced four Foundation goals for 2013-14, beginning with polio eradication.
“In Korea, we have a proverb: ‘After hardships comes happiness,’” said Lee. “Polio eradication is hard work, but when we have eradicated polio, we will have achieved something wonderful. And that is why eradicating polio is our first Foundation goal.”