Rotary and polio eradication


For more than 40 years Rotary International has been working to eradicate polio worldwide. In 1979, Rotary received a grant so its members could immunize 5 million children in the Philippines.  

In 1985, with its 1.2 million-strong membership roster, Rotary launched the Polio Plus challenge. Rotary set a goal of raising $120 million within five years.

At that time, polio was killing or crippling 100 children per day. By 1988, Rotarians had doubled their goal by raising $247 million, which caught the attention of the World Health Assembly, which in turn adopted a resolution to eradicate polio worldwide.  

The last reported case of polio in the Americas was in 1991, and by 1994 the Western Hemisphere was declared polio-free. 

India’s first National Immunization Day, when 82 million children were vaccinated, was held in 1995. In 1996, Nelson Mandela officially launched “Kick Polio out of Africa.”

By 2002, 51 European countries were declared polio-free. In 2006, the only polio-endemic countries were Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Nigeria.

By 2007, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation noticed Rotary’s commitment to end polio. The foundation offered Rotary a $100 million challenge, which was raised to a $355 million challenge in 2009, if Rotarians would raise $200 million by 2012.

Rotary accepted the challenge, and six months before the deadline, the service organization’s members raised $211 million.

By 2012, Rotary helped 2.5 billion children get immunized.  

Over the span of 40 years, working to eradicate polio in the world, Rotarians have raised more than $1.8 billion to fight this crippling disease.

Today, Rotarians face challenges getting to remote villages (safely) in Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the only countries where polio cases are still reported, and locating children between ages 6 months and 5 years to receive the vaccine.  

Working hand in hand with the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, UNICEF, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and local government agencies, Rotary first set its sights on eradicating polio by 2005. 

Today, all of the agencies involved have set their sights on December 2023 for a polio-free world.  

For details, contact the Rotary Club of Murphy at