Polio is a highly infectious disease that 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 the nervous system, leaving the person with a weak crippled leg and unable to walk normally throughout his life.
In rare cases, the muscles of the neck or head may also get affected. In only 0.5% of cases, polio results in permanent paralysis mainly affecting the limbs i.e. legs, feet and ankle. During the 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 Southeast Asia being declared polio-free.
Thanks to the efforts of the 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 2019 was observed on Thursday, 24th October 2019. The theme for World Polio Day 2019 is “Stories of Progress: Past and Present for World Polio Day”.
The day is observed to raise awareness for polio vaccination and eradication of polio.
Rotary Club of Oldmeldrum, a small town village in Scotland illuminated the Town Hall with Purple color. The color in a way supports the vaccination campaign, as those who are vaccinated; have to dip their little finger in purple color.
Events were organized at the city of Cairo, the capital of Egypt, to gather support for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). A statement in this regard was released by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday, 21st October.
WHO with the help of associates is reached out to government, political leaders and communities in order to encourage them to support the campaigns.
An announcement declaring the successful eradication of the Type-3 Poliovirus was also made on this World Polio Day.
Meanwhile, in India, polio drives were also organized by hospitals, schools, and associate organizations. Communities were informed about the simple method of immunization and how it saves them from a lifelong disability.
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 Poliovirus from all 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 occurrences 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 Poliovirus 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 the 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 World Polio Day is to eradicate Polio virus completely from the world and ensure vaccination of the last child belonging to the most marginalized section of the society.
The day also provides a platform for the organizations to raise necessary funds for the programs as it requires billions 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 raising 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 the 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 the Rotary Club made a commitment to raise nearly 450 Billion dollars 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 fundraising 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 extremists 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 as mentioned below also provide an objective or target to be achieved or mark the beginning of a new step towards the goal.
- The theme for World Polio Day 2019 is “Stories of Progress: Past and Present for World Polio Day”.
- 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”.