Samuel Owori, Uganda, RI representative to UN-HABITAT and a member of the African Regional PolioPlus Committee (on the left) and Henry Kyemba, Uganda, RI representative to the UN Environment Programme, check out the End Polio Now exhibit unveiled 27 October. On the right: RI President Dong Kurn Lee welcomes visitors to the opening of the exhibit. Rotary Images/Alyce Henson

 

Rotarians have traveled by car, bicycle, boat, even camel to immunize children around the world against polio.

Their stories and the global initiative to eradicate the crippling disease are compellingly told in the exhibit "End Polio Now," unveiled on 27 October at Rotary International World Headquarters in Evanston, Illinois, USA.

"This exhibit serves as a reminder to those who live in a polio-free world about the suffering of those who do not," Rotary Foundation Trustee Vice Chair Ron Burton told the gathering at the exhibit's unveiling.

On hand were the Trustees of The Rotary Foundation, Major Donors, Rotary representatives to the United Nations, and the senior adviser in the Global Health Program of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Cheryl Scott, as well as the media.

Burton called the exhibit "a tribute to the will and determination of the world's 1.2 million Rotarians" in raising hundreds of millions of dollars to help vaccinate two billion children against polio, promoting and participating in National Immunization Days, and  raising more than $4 billion from the public sector through advocacy with governments.

"This exhibit tells their story, a story of perseverance and hope in the face of financial, political, technical, and geographic obstacles," Burton said.

The story unfolds on the exhibit's 12 large panels, with titles such as "Mobilize to Immunize," "Rotary Responds," "Tracking the Wild Virus," and "A World without Polio." Also featured are a continuous DVD presentation and a display case containing a few of the numerous awards that Rotary has received in recognition of its leadership role in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

Two other cases feature items used to promote and carry out National Immunization Days, such as a Rotary volunteer's cap, a Kick Polio Out of Africa soccer ball, a PolioPlus banner, and a cold box for transporting oral polio vaccine.

US$100 Million Challenge

The exhibit's last panel highlights Rotary's US$100 Million Challenge in response to the Gates Foundation challenge grant for polio eradication. Visitors can use an electronic kiosk in front of the panel to donate to the fundraising challenge.

"We have brought the world closer to the end of a disease and to the achievement of the fourth [UN] Millennium Development Goal: reducing child mortality," said RI President Dong Kurn Lee. "Rotary is committed to ending polio and to building the healthier, safer, and more peaceful world of which we all dream."

RI General Secretary Ed Futa joined Lee in cutting a ribbon to officially open the exhibit.

"This exhibit will be installed here for the coming five years," Futa said. "We will be updating it as contributions to Rotary's US$100 Million Challenge continue to come in and as the number of polio-endemic countries decreases.

"We hope that school groups and other community members will view the exhibit and learn more about the problem of polio and Rotary's work to eradicate the disease," he added.

 

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