FARMINGTON – Scott Boucher, of the Bangor Rotary Club, sparked an engaging discussion as part of a presentation to the Farmington Rotary recently. Boucher serves as the Polio Plus Chair for the Maine side of Rotary District 7790 which covers a vast territory in Canada and Maine.
The polio virus is a highly infectious disease that most commonly affects children under the age of 5. It is spread person to person, typically through contaminated water. It can attack the nervous system, and in some instances, lead to paralysis. Although there is no cure, there is a safe and effective vaccine – one which Rotary and partners have used to immunize over 2.5 billion children worldwide.
Boucher reported that in 1985 the crippling effects of Polio in the U.S. had decreased but numbers worldwide had reached over 350,000, impacting the lives of the most vulnerable population. Rotarians at that time put in motion the Polio Plus Initiative.
For the last 25 years, Rotarians have worked tirelessly to promote the eradication of Polio. Polio Plus was the groundbreaking effort of an organization to coordinate with the private sector to provide support to a public health initiative and has now also become the largest.
The strength of Rotarians has been staying true to their “Service Above Self” philosophy. In 2007 Rotary was joined by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation issuing a challenge. The Foundation would match dollar for dollar the Rotary contributions, resulting in a total of 633 million dollars to pursue the goals of putting an end to Polio worldwide.
The fight continues. World Polio Day, October 24th in conjunction with the Purple Pinkie Project, raises awareness and symbolizes the life saving vaccination of a child. When a child is vaccinated, their pinkie is stamped with purple to indicate they have received the vaccine, with each Purple Pinkie we grow closer to making Polio history.
The Farmington club has been active in their Polio Plus participation, hosting a Pints for Polio fundraiser and a Purple Pinkie drive, encouraging members to partake in a symbolic painting of the Pinkie with purple polish to raise funds to support the initiative.
Rotary is so close to polio eradication. There are only two countries with identified cases and efforts must be maintained if we are to stop the spread from continuing. Pakistan, which has seen political unrest lately, had reduced cases to just 12 in 2018. Cases grew to 147 in 2019 and there are currently 60 cases year-to-date. In Afghanistan there were 29 cases in 2019 and there are 34 year-to-date.
To learn more about polio plus and Rotary’s efforts visit https://www.endpolio.org/. Also, watch for activities sponsored by Farmington Rotary on October 24, 2020.