Sydney Opera House displays Rotary's messageWhat do the Trevi Fountain in Rome, India’s Charminar monument, and the New York Stock Exchange building have in common? Each of these iconic landmarks will provide a dramatic backdrop for a Celebratory message about the eradication of Polio this week on the occasion of the Rotary organization’s 106th anniversary.

End Polio Now. Those three words – representing Rotary’s pledge to rid the world of this crippling childhood disease – will be projected onto each structure this week accompanied by speeches announcing the exciting momentum achieved by their campaign: 99% of the world has become a polio-free zone, and the disease’s final days are near. (Video below)

Rotary International will also join vaccine-producer Sanofi Pasteur to ring the trading bells at the New York Stock Exchange and four financial markets in Europe tomorrow, Lisbon, Amsterdam; Brussels, and Paris, marking 23 years since the humanitarian organization first took on polio as its top priority.

Since then, Rotary club members worldwide have contributed more than $1 billion and countless volunteer hours to the polio eradication effort, and great progress has been made, and the incidence of polio infection has plunged from about 350,000 cases in 1988 to fewer than 1,000 cases in 2010. More than two billion children have been immunized in 122 countries, preventing five million cases of paralysis and 250,000 pediatric deaths.

In recent years, other iconic landmarks have heralded the polio pledge, including the Sydney Opera House, London’s Tower Bridge, the Roman Coliseum, Egypt’s Pyramid of Khafre, Chicago’s Wrigley Building, the Obelisk in Argentina, and the San Francisco Ferry Building.

The End Polio Now illumination in India this week is particularly symbolic because 2011 is expected to be a key year in the fight to stop the disease in that country—one of only four nations where polio remains.  Last year, India experienced a record low number of polio cases, however, reporting just 42. The other remaining polio-endemic countries are Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.

“It is our hope that people worldwide will see this visible pledge and join Rotary and its partners in this historic effort to rid the world of polio forever,” says Carl-Wilhelm Stenhammar, chair of The Rotary Foundation.

Sites scheduled for illumination this week:
– Lebanon’s Byblos Castle will be illuminated in Arabic today at 8.00PM
– Taipei 101 Building, Taiwan
– The Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy
– Fort San Cristobel in San Juan, Puerto Rico
– The New York Stock Exchange Building in New York City
– The Lebanese Byblos castle
– The Dutch Parliament Building in The Hague, The Netherlands
– The KPT Government Building in Karachi, Pakistan
– Kanazawa Castle, in Kanazawa, Japan

WATCH celebrities in the video below who have joined the campaign, like Bill Gates, Bishop Desmond Tutu, violinist Itzhak Perlman, Queen Noor of Jordan, actor Jackie Chan, Grammy Award-winning singers Angelique Kidjo and Ziggy Marley, golfer Jack Nicklaus, and environmentalist Dr. Jane Goodall in Rotary’s “This Close” video. “We’re this close to ending polio”, and supporters of a polio-free world can add their portrait photograph to an online template at — displaying their own gesture using their thumb and forefinger.

Rotary clubs worldwide have planned a variety of activities surrounding the Feb. 23 anniversary. Schools are holding “Wear it Purple” days during which children will exchange their uniforms for purple clothing. The color symbolizes the purple dye that Rotary volunteers and health workers in developing countries use to mark the pinky finger of a child who has received the oral polio vaccine. Keeping with the purple theme, thousands of purple crocus flowers were planted in public spaces in October as part of the campaign in the United Kingdom, and should start to bloom by late February.

The Rotary is a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, along with the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF. They have recently pledged to raise an additional $200 million to match $355 million in challenge grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

To learn more about polio eradication, including how to participate in this historic effort, visit today.

There are 1.2 million business and professional leaders as members of the Rotary, in 33,000 clubs located in more than 200 countries — all working to build goodwill and peace in the world.


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