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January 22, 2003

Rotarians as Global Heros

I don't usually think of the Rotary Club as a bastion of social justice, but its hard to read this article, Superheroes in Bad Ties, without being impressed.

Twenty years ago, the Rotarians quietly began an organization-wide goal of eradicating polio around the world. At that point only 60% of the world's children were getting routine immunization against the disease, leading to a projection that over twenty years, 8 million children would be paralyzed by it.

Not only did they raise hundreds of millions of dollars to fight the disease, they actually adopted Cuba as a model of simultaneous vaccination to eradicate the disease country by country. They themselves raised $500 million for the effort, then became public advocates with the World Health Organization and UNICEF to in the late 1990s push governments and foundations to spend more than $1.8 billion for polio eradication.

The results- in 2001, there were only 480 cases of polio in the world, a decrease of 99.9% from 1985.

The point here is that social justice work of any kind takes sustained organization over the long term. Too often the left emphasizes the short-term event or rally over building the long-term organization needed for those kinds of results.

It's scary to think that the Rotary Club may have done more for the poor of the world in the last twenty years than any left mobilization I can think of. I don't want to say that twenty years from now.

Posted by Nathan at January 22, 2003 08:17 AM

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