Polio is a highly infectious disease which is not as much life threatening as it is crippling. Also known as ‘Poliomyelitis’ in medical terms, it is a disease caused by the deadly ‘Poliovirus’ usually affecting children under 5 years of age, for this reason it is also known as ‘Infantile Paralysis’. The virus mainly affects nervous system, leaving the person with a weak crippled leg and unable to walk normally throughout his life.
In rare cases the muscles of neck or head may also get affected. In only 0.5% of cases the polio results in permanent paralysis mainly affecting the limbs i.e. legs, feet and ankle. During 1940s and 1950s polio killed or crippled nearly two million people globally. Fortunately in the past two decades the world has seen a steep decline in the total number of recorded cases with many parts like Europe, America and South East Asia being declared polio free.
Thanks to the efforts of World Health Organization and Global Polio Eradication Initiative 1988, the globally recorded numbers of polio infected cases have reduced considerably from 350000 in 1988 to just 22 in 2017. The polio vaccine today is accessible to the masses even in most of the remotest locations of the world due to the efforts of WHO and GPEI.
World Polio Day 2019
World Polio Day will be celebrated on Thursday, 24th October 2019 globally, to generate awareness towards eradication of polio as well as to commemorate the efforts of thousands of employees of WHO and other volunteers committed to the eradication of Polio.
History of World Polio Day
The World Polio Day was initiated by the Rotary Foundation nearly a decade ago with an aim of complete eradication of Polio virus from all the parts of the world. Rotary club is a partner in the Global Polio eradication Program with organizations like- World Health Organization, Bill and Malinda Gates Foundation and U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. Global Polio Eradication Initiative was launched by the Rotary International and World Health Organization in 1988, when there were nearly 350000 cases of polio in 125 countries.
Though, till 2013 many of the countries were declared polio free, still countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan were witnessing rare occurrence of the disease and there was still a constant threat of the disease to reappear in any part of the world. Therefore, a need to celebrate World Polio Day was felt, to completely eradicate Polio virus globally through general awareness for vaccination, prevention and raising funds for different programs.
Why World Polio Day is Celebrated
The World Polio Day is celebrated with only one prime objective, that is – to completely eradicate polio from all the parts of the world, making the world ‘Polio Free’. The occasion also commemorates the birth of Jonas Salk, who led the team for developing first vaccine for Poliomyelitis, along with commemorating the efforts of millions of dedicated employees and volunteers of the organizations committed to the cause.
Though the disease is eradicated from most of the countries, it still affects some of the most marginalized sections and poorest people in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. In spite of the success, if we fail to completely eradicate this highly infectious disease, there is a good possibility of it reappearing in the coming decades. Therefore, the main purpose of the World Polio Day is to eradicate Polio virus completely from world and ensure vaccination of the last child belonging to the most marginalized section of the society.
The day also provides a platform to the organizations to raise necessary funds for the programs as it requires billion of dollars to successfully vaccinate every child in the world. On the World Polio Day 2017 the Rotary International and the Bill and Malinda Gates Foundation together committed to raise 450 billion dollars for eradicating polio globally. With a huge and dedicated force of employees, volunteers and local public and administration, oral vaccination is provided to every infant, making a step towards ‘Complete Eradication of Polio’.
How World Polio Day is Celebrated
The World Polio Day is celebrated enthusiastically by the Rotarians and the committed members of other organizations as well as volunteers working tirelessly for total eradication of polio. Being the base of the Rotary International, America plays the main host to the event. Many events are organized at different places in order to raise awareness for the issue of polio endemic and for raising funds through voluntary or large corporate donations.
One of the commendable achievements of the World Polio Day 2017 hosted by the Bill and Malinda Gates Foundation was that the foundation along with Rotary club made a commitment to raise nearly 450 Billion dollar towards worldwide eradication of polio.
Rotary members in the last polio affected countries- Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria; organize many programs for spreading general awareness of the local population about the polio disease, its causes and effects and above all stressing on the need to regular vaccination of the children. Local fund raising campaigns are organized, requesting people as well as corporate companies to make donations for the noble cause of complete eradication of the polio epidemic.
The celebration also commemorates the hard working members who sometimes risk their lives, by serving door to door in some of the most inhospitable terrains and places of the planet, working along with not so friendly local administration. Some religious extremist in Pakistan take the oral vaccination of children as an attempt to outrage their religious modesty and sternly oppose any vaccination campaigns sometimes violently.
However, anyone from across the world can make a contribution and encourage friends and relatives too. Every single penny that you contribute will be used for the eradication of polio. We have almost reached the end but still have to take the final step.
World Polio Day Themes
Themes of an occasion may serve various purposes. Every year the World Polio Day is celebrated with a new theme, specifying its objective as well as inspiring millions who are committed to the cause. Themes like mentioned below also provide an objective or target to be achieved or mark the beginning of a new step towards the goal.
- World Polio Day Theme 2018 – “End Polio Now”.
- World Polio Day Theme 2017 – “A celebration of the unsung heroes of Polio eradication”.
- World Polio Day Theme 2016 – “End Polio now, make history today”.
- World Polio Day Theme 2015 – “End Polio Now: Make History Today”.