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John Germ, Rotary International President-Elect 2016-17, visited Beirut from 3-6 Sept. to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Polio Plus program in Lebanon and to sign along with District 2452 the “Declaration on Polio”.
While in Lebanon, Germ gave the opening and closing remarks during Rotary’s Polio Conference on 6 Sept. at Hilton Beirut Habtoor Grand Hotel, Beirut – Lebanon. The conference was attended by Minster of Public health Representative, WHO,UNICEF, Sanofi Pasteur , and Rotarians from 27 countries. It reviewed the historic progress made toward ending polio, Rotary’s involvement in stopping the outbreak in Syria, plans to continue protecting children in the Middle East, and the challenges that remain in the global effort to eradicate polio – Rotary’s top philanthropic goal.
“Stemming the spread of the wild poliovirus in the region allowed 2015 to be a year of unprecedented progress. We’ve seen the continent of Africa go an entire year without a case of polio for the first time ever and Pakistan has reported a 70 percent reduction in cases compared to the same time last year. The job isn’t done yet, but I am hopeful we may soon see a polio-free world.”Germ declared.
Rotary launched its polio immunization program PolioPlus in 1985, and in 1988 became a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative with the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since the initiative launched in 1988, the incidence of polio has plummeted by more than 99.9 percent, from about 350,000 cases a year to less than 400 in 2014. The GPEI has also teamed with Gavi, a global vaccine alliance, and Sanofi Pasteur, the largest manufacturer of polio vaccine, in its final push to eradicate the disease. Contributing greatly to the success of diminished polio cases are the millions of Rotary members who have volunteered countless hours to immunize 2.5 billion children in 122 countries.
From the launch of the Polio Plus global initiative in 1988, 5 million people, mainly in the developing world, who would otherwise have been paralyzed, will be walking because they have been immunized against polio. More than 500,000 cases of polio are now prevented each year by the efforts of governments and the partnership of the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the overseas development agencies of donor nations.