LOCAL Rotary clubs are joining 34,000 fellow clubs across the globe - 1,750 of them in Great Britain and Ireland with 48,000 members - to celebrate World Polio Day later this month.

The occasion, on October 24, will be an opportunity to reflect on how far their campaign has come to almost eradicate the disease.

Poliomyelitis, often called polio or infantile paralysis is an infantile disease with no cure often leading to partial or in the worst cases complete paralysis. A vaccine currently costs around 20p.

Polio has no cure, which means immunisation programmes are essential to prevent children from contracting this disease. Until polio is eradicated, children everywhere are at risk.

Readers brought up in the 1960s will remember taking the vaccine on a sugar lump. Today in the UK, NHS vaccination is now by means of injection.

Skipton Craven Rotary President John Exley said: “In the past 30 years the International Rotary Club Organisation has committed itself to eradicating polio completely in every country of the world.

“Since Rotary and its partners launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in those three decades the incidence of polio has plummeted by more than 99.9 percent, from about 350,000 cases a year in 125 countries to just 22 cases in 2017 and with just three remaining polio-endemic countries, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.

“To sustain this progress and protect all children from polio, Rotary has committed to raising US$50 million per year over the next three years in support of global polio eradication efforts.

“The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will match Rotary’s commitment 2:1 so every £1 becomes raised £3. Without full funding and political commitment, this paralysing disease could return to previously polio-free countries, putting children everywhere at risk.

There are seven Rotary Clubs in our district, Skipton and Skipton Craven, Settle, Ilkley and Ilkley Wharfedale, Otley and Otley Chevin. Over the course of the 30 years each of these clubs has contributed funds from the charity funds they have raised to the global initiative.

Rotary however states that although cases are down by 99.9 per cent and over 2.5 billion children have been immunised, remote and rural areas are the hardest to reach.

Retired president Brian Stott added: “It requires at least three years with no new cases being reported in order to declare the world polio free, so by continuing to fund immunisation programmes in these areas, Rotary can make history.

“If the global campaign ceases because of lack of funds, it would take less than 10 years for polio to return to pandemic levels, with up to 200,000 new cases of paralysis every year in countries which have long been free of the disease.

“Polio is so close to becoming only the second human disease ever to be eradicated from the world. Smallpox was declared as having been eradicated in 1980.

“So if you see any Rotary Club events or collections over the coming weeks and months you will know that each club contributes to the Rotary Foundation Charity along with clubs all over the world to reach that final target of eradication of polio.

Rotary International in Great Britain & Ireland is a membership and humanitarian service organisation. Through membership of their local Rotary club, members use their time and talents to make a difference in their own communities and around the world.

The movement, open to anyone over 18, was founded in Chicago in 1900 and was so named because the groups “rotated” between different meeting premises.