First Posted: 2/22/2012
Rotary International will celebrate its designation of World Polio Plus Day February 23.
The organization is comprised of more than 33,000 clubs and 1.2 million members worldwide, including the Rotary Club of the Abingtons.
Roger Mattes Jr., president of the Abington club explained the significance: “It’s primarily a way to bring attention to the scourge of polio and how far we have come, as a group, in eradicating it from the face of the earth.”
Rotary International started the Polio Plus campaign in 1985. The stated goal was to eradicate polio from the face of the earth by the year 2005. In 2005, it had narrowed down to being present in three countries and started to make a comeback.
“In 1985, when we started this campaign, over 1,000 children a day were being crippled by polio. There were over 350,000 cases being reported world-wide and reporting back then was not near as accurate as today. ,” Mattes said.
He explained how, originally, they were having problems with these countries mistrusting outsiders to the point where children were having their arms cut off by tribal warlords for receiving vaccinations. Polio is primarily a water born virus from contaminated water; issues exist in third world nations where they don’t have running water.
“Our club from Clarks Summit educated a community of girls by making a modest contribution which received multiple matching grants. We were able to dig a well in Kenya which, in turn, allowed the girls of that community to no longer carry water back and forth all day. Instead, they went to school. Clean water is a huge issue worldwide,” said Mattes.
Last year, the total number of cases was 647. The year before that it was 1,352. As of January 31, 2011, there were only 8 confirmed cases, none in the United States. Seven were in Pakistan and one in Afghanistan.
Mattes talked about the $200 million challenge. “Bill and Melinda Gates challenged Rotary to raise $ 200 million by June 2012. We reached it last week and because we reached it so early, the Gates Foundation decided to chip in another $ 50 million. We are showing what one group can do with a lot of sweat and hard work.”
Clarks Summit resident Marvin Pollack is scheduled to address the Rotary of the Abingtons on World Polio Plus Day. In his prepared speech, he will talk about his life with polio. It began on a summer day in 1939 when his parents took his family to Harvey’s Lake where they spent the day enjoying the lake. This was where he contracted polio. At age 2 he was taught to use crutches and told there was no cure.
“I was one of the luckier ones and just had to wear special high shoes in grade school. There were only two shoe stores where you could purchase these shoes. These shoes were adjusted by a leather piece attached to the bottom to make up for the shortage of about