Polio was once one of the most feared diseases in the world.
Many of us knew at least one child who was stricken with this sometimes deadly disease. Epidemics would strike whole communities.
That all changed in the United States and in many affluent nations after 1955, when Jonas Salk developed a cure for this almost unstoppable disease. Mass inoculation efforts were a success, but the disease still ran rampant throughout much of the world.
In 1985, members of Rotary International, a group that includes our own Covington Rotary, promised to raise $120 million to fight polio. In three years, Rotarians raised more than $240 million, and by 1994 the Western Hemisphere was declared polio-free because of the Rotary and members of our local club.
Rotarians then pledged to defeat polio in every country in the world.
In 1995, 165 million children in one week were inoculated in China. In 1997, 134 million children in India were inoculated in one day.
By then, Rotarians had raised more than $500 million.That allowed health workers to inoculate children and adults for pennies a shot.
In 2009, the Bill Gates Foundation offered a $250 million grant to Rotarians if they would match it.They almost have.
Today, polio is almost eradicated, with the exception of some cases in Pakistan, India, Nigeria and Afghanistan. Rotary members are determined to soon have no case of polio to report anywhere.
We are proud of the Rotarians worldwide who have given to this great cause. We are even prouder of our Covington Rotary. Members not only give to this great cause but every day give back to our community with their money and volunteer time.
Without them and the other fine volunteer civic groups we have in our community, our hometown would not be quite the same.
We salute the members of all civic groups in Newton County. They are truly our hometown heroes.