THE Regis Rotary Club of Lyme Regis has played a role in a significant global public health achievement, as the World Health Organization (WHO) has officially declared its Africa region as wild polio-free.
Polio is a debilitating disease mainly affecting children, which can cause paralysis and even death.
This incredible milestone is the result of decades of effort from Rotary Clubs and volunteers around the world, who have fundraised, campaigned and worked tirelessly since Rotary pledged to rid the world of polio more than 30 years ago.
The Rotary Club of Lyme Regis has played its part by organising a number of events over some years to raise awareness and funds for the Rotary International Polio Plus appeal.
A major contribution to this effort has been made by local Rotarian Mark Tredwin, who has raced his ‘Purple for Polio’ car around the country as well as appearing at many both national and local events, leading to him being awarded the Rotary Club’s prestigious Paul Harris Fellowship.
The Lyme Regis club has also planted with the support of the Town Council our ‘ Purple Crocus garden’ in Langmoor gardens.
The certification comes four years after Nigeria, the last polio-endemic country in Africa, recorded its final case of wild polio and now means out of the WHO’s six regions, five of those – accounting for 90% of the world’s population – are free from polio.
Globally, more than 2.5 billion children have been protected against the disease, which has reduced the number of cases by 99.9% from around 1,000 cases per day in 125 countries.
Lyme Regis Rotarian Peter Fortnam said: “This is a terrific landmark in the world’s battle to eradicate polio. Although it has been many years since polio has been present in the UK and Ireland, we are proud to have contributed to the global efforts to eliminate the disease for good.
“We remain committed to making the final, challenging steps towards making a polio free world a reality.
“If we don’t finish the job, it is estimated that, within 10 years, as many as 200,000 children annually all over the world could succumb to polio, including here in the UK. The virus can literally be a plane ride away so vaccination is so important.”
Despite this significant milestone being reached, the job to fully rid the world of polio goes on, as the virus continues to circulate in parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
In order to sustain this progress, vaccination programmes must continue to protect every last child and strengthen routine immunisation to keep immunity levels high, so the virus does not return to Africa or other parts of the world, including the UK.
Rotary has directly contributed more than US$2 billion to ending polio since 1985. Every pound we now raise is matched 2:1 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
To get involved in Rotary and make a difference in your community and around the world, visit www.lymeregisrotary.org