End Polio Now – Purple for Polio   

An International Campaign to Eradicate Polio from the World

Since 1985, Rotary’s key humanitarian priority has been to rid the world of polio. Polio is a viral disease that largely affects children under five and can cause meningitis and paralysis. In a percentage of cases it may prove fatal.  Cases occurred commonly in the UK until a vaccination programme was introduced in the 1950’s.  Prior to that programme there were around 7500 cases each year and 750 deaths.

The availability of vaccine led to a rapid reduction in polio cases in countries where programmes were implemented, but in many countries, economic circumstances, warfare, communication and logistical difficulties meant that polio continued to exact a toll on the population. When the Rotary campaign began, there were over 1000 cases each day across 125 countries.

Thanks to the work of Rotary members and our partners, the number of cases are down by 99.9% and only a handful of cases occur each year. The complete eradication of polio is within sight, but a number of years of continued work to vaccinate children, educate health workers, social leaders and monitor disease incidence will be necessary before the world can be declared polio-free.

On the day that children receive their vaccination a small dab of purple dye is placed on their little fingers. This is in order to keep a simple tally of who has received the treatment at theses mass-vaccination sessions. The significance of the colour purple is reflected in Rotary’s mass planting of Purple Giant crocuses across the UK and Ireland.

Much of the learning, policy and infrastructure built up as a result of Rotary’s End Polio Now campaign has been, and can be, utilised across the world to tackle other diseases.



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