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Pagosa Rotary Clubs working to fight polio worldwide

In recognition of World Polio Day, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter will give a “State of the State” address today. This year’s event will include a presentation about polio by Dr. Walt Orenstein of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Governor Ritter will recognize the unique partnership of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Rotary clubs in Colorado in the fight to end polio.

At the same time, Rotary International is celebrating a major milestone reached in its global fund-raising campaign to eradicate polio — nearly $100 million raised toward its $200 million challenge.

As part of a $355 million challenge grant awarded to Rotary by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Rotary clubs worldwide are aiming to raise a total of $200 million by 2012. The funding will provide critical support to polio eradication activities, including the distribution of a new, more effective bivalent polio vaccine that was recently approved for use in the coming months, for countries still battling the disease in parts of Africa and South Asia.

Since 1985, eradicating polio worldwide has been Rotary’s top philanthropic goal. In addition to the funds announced today, Rotary has contributed more than $800 million and countless volunteer hours to the protection of more than two billion children in 122 countries.

The disease remains endemic in just four countries — Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan — although other countries remain at risk for imported cases.

A highly infectious disease, polio causes paralysis and is sometimes fatal. As there is no cure, the best protection is prevention. For as little as 60 cents worth of vaccine, a child can be protected against this crippling disease for life. After an international investment of more than $6.22 billion, and the successful engagement of over 200 countries and 20 million volunteers, polio could be the first disease of the 21st century to be eradicated.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is spearheaded by the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). It includes the support of governments and private sector donors.

Rotary is an organization of business and professional leaders united worldwide to provide humanitarian service and help to build goodwill and peace in the world. It is comprised of 1.2 million members working in more than 33,000 clubs in 200 countries and geographic regions.

Pagosa Springs has two Rotary Clubs, Pagosa Mountain Morning Club and Rotary Club of Pagosa Springs. For more information about Rotary in the community you can visit www.pagosarotary.org.

To raise awareness and funds for the global push to end polio, other Rotary clubs worldwide are conducting activities surrounding World Polio Day. Rotary invites the public to support the polio eradication initiative by visiting rotary.org/endpolio. Cell phone users can donate $5 by texting the word “polio” to 90999.

For further information visit, www.rotary.org/endpolio or www.polioeradication.org.