Structures around the world, including the new Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation campus in Seattle, will provide backdrops for the powerful message: End Polio Now. Those three words – representing Rotary’s pledge to rid the world of this crippling childhood disease – will illuminate structures during the week surrounding February 23, Rotary’s 106th anniversary.
These global illuminations carry Rotary’s pledge to end polio—saying to the world that we will fight this crippling disease to the end,” says Carl-Wilhelm Stenhammar, chair of The Rotary Foundation, which oversees Rotary’s polio eradication program. “It is our hope that people worldwide will see this visible pledge and join Rotary and its partners in this historic effort to rid the world of polio forever.”
Tremendous progress has been made in the fight against polio and the incidence of infection has plunged by 99% from about 350,000 cases in 1988 to fewer than 1,500 cases in 2010. More than two billion children have been immunized in 122 countries, preventing an estimated five million cases of paralysis and 250,000 pediatric deaths.
Rotarians worldwide have contributed more than $1 billion and countless volunteer hours to the polio eradication effort. “We’re delighted to help spread Rotary’s message and to recognize Rotary’s leadership in the fight to eradicate polio,” said Apoorva Mallya, Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Gates Foundation has provided more than $355 million to the Rotary Foundation’s PolioPlus program in support of Rotary’s hands-on efforts to eradicate polio.
Polio eradication has been Rotary’s top priority for more than two decades. In addition to the Gates Foundation, Rotary is a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, along with the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF.
Along with the Gates Foundation campus, other sites scheduled for illumination on February 23, 2011 include: India’s Charminar in Hyderabad, India; the KPT Government Building in Karachi, Pakistan; Kanazawa Castle, in Kanazawa, Japan; Taipei 101 Building, Taiwan; the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy; Fort San Cristobel in San Juan, Puerto Rico; the New York Stock
Exchange Building in New York City, USA; Byblos Castle in Byblos, Lebanon; and the Dutch Parliament Building in The Hague, The Netherlands.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation campus at 500 Fifth Avenue North in Seattle is still under construction, but the illumination will be projected on the northeast side of the campus and will be clearly visible from Mercer Street and 6th
Avenue North. The building will be lit on Wednesday, February 23 at 6:00PM and remain lit through the night.
To learn more about polio eradication, including how to participate in this historic effort, visit www.rotary.org/endpolio.
For more information about Rotary and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, visit www.gatesfoundation.org/grantee-profiles/Pages/rotary-international