| IT IS a year since the last case of
polio was diagnosed in India.|
Rotary engineCan a businessmenís club eradicate polio from the
Jan 21st 2012 | new york |
from the print edition of The Economist.
Goodbye to all that
IT IS a
year since the last case of polio was diagnosed in India. That is not enough to
pronounce the country polio-freeóthree clear years are the conventional period
required for that to happen. But it is a good start. And if India really is
clear, then what was once a global scourge will now be endemic to a mere three
countries: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. The number of people infected,
meanwhile, has dropped from 350,000 in 1988 to 650 last year.
All this is in large part thanks to
the efforts of Rotary International. In 1985, after a successful pilot study in
the Philippines, this businessmenís club cum global charity announced a plan to
eradicate polio by vaccinating every child under five at risk of catching it.
The estimate then was that it would cost $120m. Some $800m of Rotary money
later (plus a lot from other sources), the virus is still out there, but its
remaining hidey-holes tell their own story: where civil disorder is rife, medicine
On January 17th Rotary announced it
had raised yet another $200m. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will
contribute a further $405m, and the pressure will thus be kept up. John Germ,
one of Rotaryís trustees, thinks that if all goes well 2016 might be the first
year when no new cases are reported. That would, though, mean spending more
than $1 billion a year between now and then.