Rotary International and the Rotary Foundation
One of UNICEF’s largest partners since 1988
Rotary International and UNICEF work together as leading partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative to protect every child against polio.
In 1985, Rotary launched its PolioPlus programme, the first initiative to tackle global polio eradication through the mass vaccination of children. Rotary has contributed more than $2 billion and countless volunteer hours to immunize more than 3 billion children in 122 countries. In addition, Rotary’s advocacy efforts have played a role in donor governments’ decisions to contribute more than $10 billion to the effort. Within the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), Rotary’s focus is on advocacy, fundraising, volunteer recruitment and awareness building.
Today, only two countries have not stopped the transmission of the wild poliovirus: Afghanistan and Pakistan. Six wild polio cases were confirmed worldwide in 2021, which is a reduction of more than 99 percent since the 1980s, when the world saw approximately 1,000 children paralysed by polio every day. The world has never been so close to eradication, which is why Rotary’s continued commitment and focus on polio eradication remains critical.
Stopping the wild poliovirus from spreading and paralysing children in the last remaining pockets of Afghanistan and Pakistan is proving to be the most difficult yet, due to factors including discrepancies in the quality of vaccination campaigns, massive mobile populations, conflict, insecurity and, in some instances, parental refusals due to vaccine misinformation. Until polio is eradicated, all countries remain at risk of outbreaks.
Rotary raises over $50 million per year, with every dollar matched with two dollars from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. These funds help to provide much-needed operational support, medical personnel and laboratory equipment, and support the crucial work of engaging community leaders and parents to build trust in vaccines. Governments, corporations and private individuals all play a crucial role in funding.
“In the days before Jonas Salk’s revolutionary polio vaccine, there was a real fear for families that their children would contract the disease. Realizing the great potential of this vaccine, Rotary helped rally the world around total eradication in 1988, with the creation of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.” – Henrietta Fore, Former Executive Director of UNICEF.
Rotary in Action
More than 1 million Rotary members have donated their time and personal resources to end polio. Every year, hundreds of Rotary members work side by side with health workers to vaccinate children in polio-affected countries. Rotary members work with UNICEF and other partners to prepare and distribute mass communication tools to reach people in areas isolated by conflict, geography or poverty. Rotary members also recruit fellow volunteers, assist with transporting the vaccine, and provide other logistical support.
About Rotary International
Rotary International is a global civil society organization, headquartered in the United States, that brings together a global network of volunteers who dedicate their time and talent to tackle the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges. Rotary connects 1.4 million members from more than 200 countries and geographical areas. Their work impacts lives at both the local and international levels, from helping families in need in their own communities to working towards a polio-free world.
Rotary brings together the kind of people who step forward to take on important issues for local communities worldwide. Rotary members hail from a range of professional backgrounds – doctors, artists, small business owners and executives – all calling themselves Rotarians. Rotary connects these unique perspectives and helps leverage its members’ expertise to improve lives everywhere.
Rotary has been a critical partner of UNICEF since 1988, when Rotary, UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention formed the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
The Rotary Foundation helps fund humanitarian activities, from local service projects to global initiatives conducted by Rotary members and their partners. Clubs and districts can apply for grants from the Foundation to invest in projects and provide scholarships. The Foundation leads the charge on worldwide Rotary campaigns such as eradicating polio and promoting peace. Rotarians and friends of Rotary support the Foundation’s work through voluntary contributions.
Last updated 13 June 2022