Rotary and the Fight Against Polio

While Downtown Sioux Falls Rotarians are known to be leaders within our community, the impact of Rotary can be seen around the world. Rotarians are leaders in the communities that they reside in, and they come together to tackle issues and make lasting change. One of the longest standing and most significant initiatives of Rotary International is that of polio eradication.

Polio is an illness that mainly affects nerves in the spinal cord or brain stem that can lead to paralysis. In the early 1900s, it was one of the most deadly diseases in the world, paralyzing hundreds of thousands individuals each year. The first outbreak of the disease in the United States occurred in the late 1940s and reached its highest infection rate in the country in 1952 with a total number of 20,000 cases.

Vaccines were developed and proven to be safe throughout the 1950s. With cases still prevalent, Rotary International began its fight against polio with a multi-year project to immunize 6 million children in the Philippines. The organization launched the campaign at a time when there were over 1,000 polio cases a day in 125 countries, paralyzing and even killing children.

PolioPlus was made Rotary's priority program in 1985. According to their website, Rotary International's efforts, along with that of their partners, have helped immunize more than 2.5 billion children against polio in 122 countries. The initiative has reduced polio cases by 99.9 percent worldwide. Rotary members have contributed more than $2.1 billion and countless volunteer hours to protect nearly 3 billion children in 122 countries from this paralyzing disease. Rotary’s advocacy efforts have played a role in decisions by governments to contribute more than $10 billion to the effort.

October 24th is World Polio Day, a time for Rotary members, public health advocates, and all who want a world free from polio to come together, recognize our progress in the fight to end polio, and talk about the actions we need to take in order to end polio for good.

By being a member of Downtown Sioux Falls Rotary, you are part of an organization that carries a legacy of initiating real and lasting change not just within the community, but throughout the world. to learn more about Rotary's history with the eradication of polio and World Polio Day, visit