Last week, in collaboration with the other members of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, Rotary International carried out an advocacy day to promote continued investment in the final push to end polio worldwide.
GHC participated in the well-attended briefings held in the Capitol Visitors Center where Dr Chris Elias of the Gates Foundation updated congressional staff and Rotarians about the global polio efforts. In 1988, the polio virus was endemic in 125 countries and paralyzed about 350,000 people annually, primarily children. Today, polio remains endemic in just three countries – Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, with fewer than 250 cases reported in 2012. The cost of vaccination is high – US $1 billion worldwide per year – but failure to eradicate the disease could lead to a resurgence of as many as 200,000 new cases annually.
The briefings were followed by a meeting at the Gates Foundation DC offices where representatives from the UN Foundation, the Global Poverty Project, and GHC briefed Rotarians about effective strategies for advocating to Congress including the need to promote messages on the success of polio eradication efforts thus far.
Rotarians expressed their support of GHC’s key message that the community needs to consider the importance of global health as a whole, and Dr. Sow mapped out how polio eradication efforts have wide reaching implications for systems strengthening, vaccine technology and sustained visibility of global health priorities and concerns. Rotarians then spent their afternoon meeting with members of Congress including some of the highest ranking members of the Senate and House.