THE Philippines is not yet totally free from the threat of poliomyelitis, also called polio or infantile paralysis, a highly infectious viral disease that may attack the central nervous system mostly of children.

True, the country had been declared polio-free years ago, after a worldwide immunization campaign, called PolioPlus was launched by the Rotary International but there is still a danger of overseas Filipino workers now in countries where polio is still rampant coming home with the virus and contaminating members of their families, friends and neighbors.

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PolioPlus, which was piloted in the Philippines in 1985, had been able to immunize 2 billion children in developing countries.

Unfinished campaign

Joseph Michael "Yumi" Espina, a prominent Cebu-based architect who's past district governor of Rotary District 3860 covering provinces and cities in the Visayas and Mindanao, said four developing countries in the world remained to be polio-endemic. They are Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan and India. Espina said that there are many overseas Filipino contract workers in these four countries.

"There's no telling that any of these contract workers would come home and bring back the virus to the Philippines," the Rotary past district governor said.

Espina, now chairman of the district’s TRF (The Rotary Foundation) committee, was in Davao City to speak before some 100 newly-elected presidents and secretaries of 50 Rotary clubs in Mindanao during a recent district assembly (Distas).

The TRF keeps and administers the contributions of the world’s more one million members of Rotary International (RI) as well as donations of non-Rotarians.

$200-M challenge

Espina explained to the incoming club presidents and secretaries the so-called Rotary $200 Million Challenge wherein Rotarians are called upon to raise $200 million to match two grants totaling $355 million by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for the eradication of polio.

(The $200-million goal must be raised by June 30, 2012 and as of yesterday, July 3, 2010, a total of $133 million had been raised worldwide, according to

Through an effective strategy called Every Rotarian Every Year (EREY), Espina said the $200-million challenge is achievable, considering that RI has an estimated membership of 1.2 million worldwide. Under EREY, every Rotarian is encouraged to contribute $100 every year to the fund, Espina said.

No. 1 fund-raiser

He congratulated the District 3860's more than 2,000 members for having been able to raise $222,000 during Rotary Year 2009-2010 under District Governor Antonio Veneracion. He said the amount is the biggest ever raised by the Rotarians in the more than half-a-century history of Philippine Rotary.

He credited an outstanding Dabawenyo civic leader -- Rosauro "Manong Jun" Borromeo, for being behind the District’s increasing contributions to the TRF every year. Borromeo, past president of the Rotary Club of Matina-Davao, heads the District's annual giving sub-committee.

This is the second time that District 3860 topped the Philippines' 10 Rotary districts in raising donations to the TRF. The first time was when Dr. Evelyn "Len" Magno, a Dabawenya, was the district governor, in Rotary Year 2003-2004.

Espina said one-half of the club's donations to TRF come back to the club, if the club applies for counterpart-funding for its projects through the so-called matching grants program. He said club presidents and other officers should be familiar with the matching grant system and its deadline in order to avail themselves of the fund.

Espina added that PolioPlus is one of the three main programs of The Rotary Foundation, the other two being educational and humanitarian programs.

The Foundation has identified six areas of focus of its programs. They are: peace and conflict prevention/resolution; disease prevention and treatment; water and sanitation; maternal and child health; basic education and literacy; and economic and community development. (RCED Features)