World will be polio-free in 3 years, says Rotary chief

Last Updated 29 March 2013, 19:57 IST

With its 1.2 million members across 34,000 clubs worldwide involved in programmes ranging from improving health to supporting education, the community service-oriented Rotary institution is inching closer in achieving its prime goal — a polio-free world.

Rotary International President (2012-13) Sakuji Tanaka, who is presently on a visit to India, feels that the dream of eradicating polio from the face of the earth can be achieved in the next three years.

“Rotary officially launched the polio eradication initiative in 1988. Since then, we have witnessed a remarkable improvement in the situation. India has been polio-free in the last two years. The virus is now confined to three countries -  Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. We will be concentrating our efforts in these countries and hope to achieve total eradication in three years”, Tanaka said in an interaction with Deccan Herald in Bangalore on Friday.

Tanaka, as international president of Rotary’s 34,000 clubs across 200 countries, says attaining a polio-free world would be one of the biggest achievements of humanity in the present century. “The contribution of Rotary clubs and its members in achieving this global aim is tremendous. It is worth three Nobel Prizes,” Tanaka said.

According to information put out on Rotary International website, the organisation’s contribution will cross $850 million by the time the world is certified free from polio.
More than one million Rotary club members have volunteered by participating or contributing in immunisation programmes to protect more than two billion children in 122 countries from the crippling polio disease.

The major part of the contribution for Rotary community programmes comes from the United States, followed by Japan and India, Tanaka points out.

Tanaka, a Japanese national, feels that the hitherto largely United States-centric Rotary organisation is slowly but steadily becoming India-centric with increase in membership, contributions and service from this part of the world.

“There is a strong growth of membership in India, especially in the area of Information Technology. IT aspect is strong in India. Indians are fluent in English, the common language people use around the world and cost of living is less than in the US,” reasons Tanaka for the shift.

Another changing trend Tanaka points out is that more number of youth are becoming members of Rotary clubs across the world. “The average age of members in the clubs is getting lower. It is a fallout of the present world trend that young people would like to get involved for a cause... It is a good development. It will benefit all.”

Tanaka has chosen “peace through service” as the theme for his year (2012-13) of presidency. “Peace is something everybody longs for. In my mind, peace should be inclusive of everything. It should start with internal peace of an individual and then extend to family to community and finally to nations,” says Tanaka.

(Published 29 March 2013, 19:57 IST)

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