Chennai 13.12.2014: In celebration of the decades-long battle and ultimate victory over polio in India, theRotary Club of Madras today launched a Torch that was lit by Rotary International President, Gary Huang. The Flame will travel around the world to commemorate India being Polio free and to share its experience and expertise with countries where polio still exists.
“Fire is a benevolent element in Indian culture, and the Rotary Flame launched from Chennai, is a manifestation of Rotary’s commitment to eradicate polio worldwide,” said N.K. Gopinath, Past President and Chairman of the Flame committee of the Rotary Club of Madras in Chennai.
Once the epicenter of the wild polio-virus, India, along with the World Health Organization’s Southeast Asia region, was officially declared polio-free in March 2014. In celebration of reaching this major milestone in the global effort to eradicate polio worldwide, the Rotary Club of Madras, India launched the Rotary Flame today(13.12.2014), to help raise awareness of how close the world is to ending this vaccine preventable disease.
The Rotary Flame will be carried by air to the following countries, including three remaining polio-endemic countries; Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan – ending its journey at Rotary’s International Convention in São Paulo, Brazil in June 2015.
· Chennai (India)
· Colombo (Sri Lanka)
· Karachi (Pakistan)
· Kabul (Afghanistan)
· Sydney (Australia)
· Manila (Philippines)
· London (UK)
· Lagos (Nigeria)
· Evanston, IL (USA)
· Toronto (Canada)
· Sao Paulo (Brazil)
Polio eradication is Rotary’s top philanthropic goal, and to date, the global humanitarian service organization has contributed more than $1.3 billion to fight polio. Through 2018, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will match two-to-one every additional dollar Rotary commits to polio eradication (up to $35 million a year). As of 2013, there were 416 confirmed polio cases in the world, down from about 350,000 a year when the initiative launched in 1988.
Rtn S N Srikanth President, Rotary Club of Madras said, “The Club has been a pioneer in the Polio eradication Program, having started the Red Measles Campaign back in 1979 along with the Rotary Club of Whitby, Canada, when we imported 68,000 doses of vaccines. As a natural corollary, we embarked upon the Polio Eradication Campaign, from 1984, with the same club in Canada and today we are happy that our country is rid of this dreaded disease”.
Rotary provides grant funding to polio eradication initiative partners UNICEF and the World Health Organization, which work with the governments and Rotary club members of polio-affected countries to plan and carry out immunization activities. Mass immunizations of children must continue until global eradication is achieved.