BY LAURA GONZALES AND LINDA HULL
President and Vice President
Rotary Club of Los Alamos
In honor of World Polio Day, October 24 th , the Rotary Club of Los Alamos is pleased to share
the good news about efforts to eradicate polio worldwide.
Polio, or poliomyelitis, is a highly infectious and disabling disease caused by the poliovirus. The
virus is spread person to person, typically through water contaminated with feces from an
infected individual or through exposure to mucus when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
The virus attacks the nervous system, often infecting the spinal cord, and can cause paralysis.
Most commonly it affects children under the age of five. Although there is no cure, there is a
safe and effective vaccine.
In 1985, Rotary launched PolioPlus, a program focused on defeating polio, and in 1988, Rotary
helped establish the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). Today the GPEI includes the
World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF, the Bill &
Melinda Gates Foundation, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, all working to immunize the
children of the world against polio.
In 1988, there were 350,000 cases of polio reported in over 120 countries; this year there have
been only 102 reported active cases of wild polio in just two countries, Pakistan and
Afghanistan. Nigeria was declared polio-free in June of this year. All of Africa was declared
polio-free on August 25.
In recognition of this extraordinary accomplishment, TIME magazine selected Rotary’s Nigerian PolioPlus chairman, Dr. Tunji Funsho, as one of its 2020 100 Most Influential People.
Funsho has been a Rotarian for 35 years and vividly recalls the days when over 75,000 African
children were diagnosed with polio every year. He remarks, “One thing I know for certain is if
Nigeria could eliminate the wild poliovirus, any country can eliminate it.”
Until polio is fully eradicated, Rotary is raising to $50 million a year for the effort. These funds
will be matched by an additional $100 million annually from the Bill & Melinda Gates
Foundation. In addition, Rotary has played a major role in encouraging nations around the
world to contribute more than $10 billion to the effort. Those countries include England,
Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, and Spain. This funding is providing
much-needed operational support, medical staff, laboratory equipment, and educational
materials for health workers and parents.
To date, Rotary itself has contributed more than $2.1 billion and countless volunteer hours to
protecting more than 2.5 billion children in 122 countries.
In our own community, the Rotary Club of Los Alamos raises between $1400 and $1500 for
polio eradication each year through the Purple Pinkie campaign at the Los Alamos Public Schools and the Pints for Polio event. This amount, generously provided by the children and
citizens of Los Alamos and White Rock, is then multiplied three times by The Rotary
Foundation and provides between 4,200 and 4,500 immunizations to children overseas each
year. Unfortunately, pandemic protocols have postponed both the Pints for Polio event,
which had been scheduled earlier this spring, and the Purple Pinkie campaign in the
elementary schools, ordinarily scheduled in the fall.
Rotary is a global network of neighbors, friends, leaders, and problem-solvers who unite and
take action to create lasting change in communities around the world. Since 1905, Rotarians
have sought to improve lives locally and internationally through service. The Rotary motto,
Service Above Self, inspires members to provide humanitarian service, follow high ethical
standards, and promote good will and peace. There are over 1.2 million Rotary members in
more than 35,000 clubs worldwide that sponsor service projects to address such critical issues
as poverty, disease (especially the eradication of polio), water and sanitation, hunger,
illiteracy, and the environment in their local communities and abroad.
For more information about polio eradication, please go to https://www.endpolio.org/ or
If you would like to donate to PolioPlus, you may make tax-deductible donations to LA Rotary
1312, PO Box 986, Los Alamos, NM 87544. If you would like to learn more about Rotary and
how you can make a positive difference in the world, please contact President Laura Gonzales, (505) 699-5880 or Membership Chair Skip King, (505) 662-8832.