In every corner of the world, it seems that not a single person or community is unaffected by COVID-19. You may be wondering how to stay focused on our work eradicating polio when we are dealing with a pandemic caused by a virus for which there is not yet a vaccine — a situation similar to what the world faced with the poliovirus not so long ago.
The COVID-19 pandemic response requires worldwide solidarity and an urgent global effort. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), with thousands of polio workers and an extensive laboratory and surveillance network, has a moral imperative to ensure that these resources are used to support countries in their preparedness and response.
We can be proud that in the ever-connected world of global health, the polio infrastructure that Rotarians have helped build is already being used to address — and stop the spread of — the new coronavirus, in addition to serving countless other health needs. In Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, where polio personnel and assets have a significant presence, workers from all GPEI partners are engaged in surveillance, health worker training, contact tracing, and more. In 13 countries, polio volunteers have been deployed to address COVID-19 preparations and response.
We recognize that the COVID-19 emergency means that some aspects of the polio eradication program will be affected. While addressing the new challenges of today, the most important thing that Rotary members can do to continue the fight to end polio is to sustain our commitment. We are aiming to reach our fundraising goal of $50 million this year so we can work to safely reach all children with the polio vaccine. In the midst of a global pandemic, we understand that attention to polio eradication will be temporarily diverted, and this makes it all the more vital for Rotarians to remain strongly committed to fighting polio and not let our progress be eroded.