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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, March 7, 2010

Walk to help eradicate polio

By Timothy Hagan
Reader Submitted

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Polio survivors gathered along with volunteers at the 2009 Walk to End Polio.

Photo courtesy Rotary Club of Honolulu Sunset

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O'ahu Rotary clubs along with the Hawaii Post Polio Network (a local group of polio survivors) will host the second annual Walk to End Polio at 8 a.m. March 20 at Magic Island in Ala Moana Beach Park.

The purpose of the event is to raise money to support Rotary's goal to eradicate Polio worldwide. Polio is a highly infectious disease that strikes children mainly under age 5 in countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Polio has killed and crippled more than 350,000 people per year as recently as 1985. As there is no cure for polio, the best protection is prevention. For as little as 60 cents worth of oral vaccine, a child can be protected against polio for life.

Rotary, an international volunteer service organization of 1.2 million men and women, has been involved in the effort to eradicate polio worldwide for the past 25 years. Since 1985, Rotary members have volunteered time and personal resources to provide oral polio vaccine to more than 2 billion children in 122 countries. Rotary's efforts, along with those of its international partners, such as the World Health Organization and UNICEF, have helped cut the infection rate by more than 99 percent and reduced the polio endemic countries to just 4: Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Nigeria.

"The extraordinary dedication of Rotary members has played a critical role in bringing polio to the brink of eradication," said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has pledged to match Rotary International's fundraising dollar-for-dollar over a three-year period. "Eradicating polio will be one of the most significant public health accomplishments in history, and we are committed to helping reach that goal."

Local Rotary volunteer and 2010 Walk to End Polio Chairman, Paul Jurcsak, views Rotary's fundraising efforts as a way to fulfill the organization's promise of a polio-free world.

"Twenty years ago, we made a pledge to end this crippling and potentially fatal disease once and for all. As we stand on the brink of victory, we will do everything within our power to fulfill this promise to the children of the world," Jurcsak said.

Remarkable progress has been achieved in the fight against polio. The number of polio cases worldwide was reduced to only about 1,600 in 2009. Today, 70 percent of the world's population lives in polio-free countries. The Americas were declared free from polio in 1994, the Western Pacific region in 2000, and Europe in 2002.

To register or for information, visit www.walktoendpolio.com or contact Paul Jurcsak at jurcsakpt@aol.com.