Dear fellow Rotarians,
As we look ahead to 2018, it is time to look ahead as well to the next stage of our work to eradicate polio. When you look at the numbers we’ve seen over the last few years, it is clear what trajectory we are on. We had 416 cases of polio in 2013, 359 cases in 2014, 74 cases in 2015, 37 cases in 2016 and 17 cases so far in 2017. We are on our way to zero—and 2018 may well be the year we reach it.
It’s important to understand that this won’t mean our work is over. Rotary is committed to polio eradication until the world is certified polio free. For that to happen, we must be sure beyond any doubt that there is not a single virus left anywhere in the world. Poliovirus is very good at hiding and that is why we put so much effort into surveillance: looking not only for new cases of the disease, but for signs of the virus in waterways and sewage.
Once at least three years have passed from the last time poliovirus is found, an independent committee will certify the world polio-free. Then, and only then, will our work be done. Until then, it’s vital that we keep on doing everything we’re doing now: all the surveillance, all the immunizations, and all the advocacy work.
In 2016, Rotary helped vaccinate 450 million children, preventing an estimated 650,000 cases of paralysis. It could never have been done without a strong membership, ready and able to do the work. Looking ahead, all of us need to do our part to ensure that Rotary’s membership stays strong and ready for any future challenge. Each January, Rotary sees a sharp increase in prospective members reaching out to express their interest in being connected with a Rotary club. These prospective members are screened by Rotary, then assigned to districts to be reviewed and sent to a club via the membership leads program. Yet less than half of the leads we received last year were followed up by districts and only a quarter were assigned to clubs in 2016-17. I ask all of you to ensure that any membership leads you receive are followed up appropriately. If you have any questions about the membership leads program, see Connect to Membership Leads.
In other news, our Rotary Peace Centers Committee, having considered over 550 candidates, has selected the finalists for our 100 Rotary Peace Fellowships. The selected finalists represent citizenship from over 50 countries, and we are delighted to welcome them.
Finally, as some of you start thinking about holiday shopping, I’d like to remind you that Rotary Global Rewards is a wonderful way to get the most for your money; you can find it right in the Rotary Club Locator app on your phone. And for those who need an idea for the Rotarian on their list, why not commemorate the Foundation’s Centennial Year with a copy of its history? It’s a beautiful way to look back on some of our Foundation’s achievements, and be inspired by what is yet to come.
Juliet and I send all of you our warmest wishes for a healthy and happy 2018, full of friends, family, and Rotary service.
Rotary International President, 2017-18