Rotary New Zealand pledges funds to fight polio

Rotary New Zealand recently pledged $4 million to an international partnership seeking to eradicate polio.

The contribution was also aided by financial help from New Zealand's public, according to a Rotary New Zealand press release.

Rotary New Zealand expressed concern about the country's relative contributions to the campaign to fight polio to Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully. The country has contributed approximately $2.75 million to the global campaign to combat polio since 1985. Nearby Australia, however, recently pledged an additional $100 million to the effort, bringing its total over the 29-year period to $167 million.

The campaign to eliminate polio is a joint effort between the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children's Fund and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Overall global contributions to the campaign to fight polio total $12 billion.

Polio was once endemic in New Zealand. The country saw periodic outbreaks of the disease until 1956, with one of the worst outbreaks in 1916 killing 123 people. Schools closed during outbreaks, congregations of people were banned, children were prohibited from inter-island transport and some houses were placed under quarantine.

The disease is still endemic in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. Rogue cases of polio were reported this year in Equatorial Guinea, Iraq, Cameroon, Syria, Ethiopia and Somalia.