Rotary celebrates third year without polio in India

Rotary, a global volunteer organization, announced on Friday that its members would celebrate the third anniversary of India's last recorded case of polio on Monday.

On January 13, 2011, a two-year-old girl suffered polio paralysis in West Bengal, India. Since that case, there have been no new cases of wild poliovirus reported in India.

To mark the occasion, Rotary clubs throughout India planned to illuminate iconic structures and landmarks with the message, "India is Polio Free." The government of India plans to convene a polio summit in February to commemorate the anniversary.

Rotary said the current challenge is to replicate India's success in neighboring Pakistan, one of the three remaining polio-endemic countries.

"We must now stop polio in Pakistan to both protect Pakistani children and to safeguard our success in India and other countries where we have beaten this terrible disease," Deepak Kapur, the chair of Rotary's India National PolioPlus Committee, said. "Until polio is finally eradicated globally, all unvaccinated children will remain at risk of infection and paralysis, no matter where they live."

Rotary leaders in India are working with their counterparts in Pakistan to share lessons and best practices learned during India's successful campaign to defeat Polio. Rotary said it was effective in obtaining support from influential religious leaders in India's Islamic communities. Pakistani Rotary leaders are attempting to do the same to counter misinformation and rumors that keep some Muslim parents from immunizing their children.

In 1985, Rotary took on a goal to eradicate polio through the mass immunization of children. Since that time, Rotary contributed more than $1.2 billion and countless volunteer hours to battle the disease. Through 2018, every dollar Rotary commits to eradicating polio will be matched and doubled by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, up to $35 million annually.