Of the three original strains of wild poliovirus (type 1, Type 2, and Type 3), wild poliovirus Type 2 was eradicated in 1999, and no cases of wild poliovirus Type 3 have been found since the last reported case in Nigeria in November 1999. (In order for a country to be declared polio free, it must have zero cases for three consecutive years.)
In 1988, after a Rotary-led trial, polio was successfully eradicated in the Philippine islands, the World Health Assembly adopted a resolution for the worldwide eradication of polio. It marked the launching of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) spearheaded by national governments, World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International (RI), The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UNICEF, and supported by key partners including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This followed the certification of the eradication of smallpox in 1980, the progress during the 1980’s towards the elimination of poliovirus in the Americas, and Rotary International’s commitment to raising funds to protect all children from disease.
John Morrison of Wawa had the privilege in 1997-98 of being District Governor for Rotary District 6290 which stretches from Wawa down to Grand Rapids, Michigan. He recalls being present at a District meeting where our District, along with other Rotary Districts pledged to give money to District 6400 (Windsor/Detroit area) for the purpose of bringing the last polio victim in the Americas to Detroit for operations to correct his legs, which were deformed by polio as a child. His name was Luis Tenorio, and he was two years old when he had been located in 1991 on a farm in the Peruvian mountains, hidden in an animal stall because his parents were ashamed of his condition.
“In 2002, District 6400 held their district conference in Traverse City Michigan which is part of our District 6290. Kaireen and I were invited to attend, not knowing that Luis Tenorio was to be part of the conference programme. I was delighted to be able to meet and talk with him at a private house party in his honour. He walked with a limp but he walked! I was so pleased for him that I cried, and was probably not the first to do so, as he seemed to understand that they were happy tears.”
Our District pledged further funds to help with Luis’ education and there was satisfaction in knowing that he did complete high school in Detroit where he was home hosted. The plan was to send him on to university, but eventually, Luis missed his family so much that he returned home to the mountains of Peru, educated and able to walk.
Did we make a difference?