Hannah Miller, a Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts senior from Baton Rouge, approaches the finish line during the Project Polio 5K race on Jan. 28.

In honor of the recent observance of World Polio Day, the Rotary Club of Lafayette North wants to remind everyone of the importance of completing Rotary’s longstanding mission to eradicate polio. This year, we commemorated this event with stories from polio survivors at one of our recent meetings.

World Polio Day follows a succession of significant developments that have made 2018 one of the most important years in the history of the polio eradication initiative. Since Rotary first began fighting polio in 1979, through fundraising, education, research, and vaccination initiatives, in partnership with the WHO, the CDC, and UNICEF, the work of Rotary has decreased the cases of wild polio from hundreds of thousands to only 20 cases worldwide this year.

The message to community and world leaders is clear: support the final push to achieve eradication now while the goal has never been closer, or face the potential consequences of a new polio pandemic that could disable millions of children within a decade.

Doctor talks about medicine progressing from the days of blood-letting to modern-day practices

Since 1985, Rotary has contributed nearly $1.2 billion and countless volunteer hours to the protection of more than 2 billion children in 122 countries. The disease remains endemic in three countries — Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan ¯ although other countries remain at risk for imported cases.

The human race has walked on the moon and sequenced our entire genome. We have also eradicated smallpox, and now we stand in the gaze of history as we approach the eradication of only the second deadly disease in our history: Polio. I have friends who are polio survivors, and their lives and stories have had a profound initiative on me. As both a doctor and a Rotarian, I treasure the opportunity before us and ask everyone to please help us win this fight.

A highly infectious disease, polio causes paralysis and is sometimes fatal. As there is no cure, the best protection is prevention. For as little as 60 cents worth of vaccine, a child can be protected against this crippling disease for life. After an international investment of more than $9 billion, and the successful engagement of over 200 countries and 20 million volunteers, polio could be the first human disease of the 21st century to be eradicated, and only the second disease ever eradicated.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is spearheaded by the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United Nations Children’s Fund. It includes the support of governments and other private sector donors.

Rotary brings together a global network of volunteer leaders dedicated to tackling the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges. Rotary connects 1.2 million members of more than 34,000 Rotary clubs in over 200 countries and geographical areas. Their work improves lives at both the local and international levels, from helping families in need in their own communities to working toward a polio-free world. For more information on Polio, Rotary, or to donate to Rotary International’s PolioPlus Fund, visit and

Lawrence Simon

president-elect, Rotary Club of Lafayette-North