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Oscar Nominated Films Raise Polio Awareness
Date:2/12/2009

The Final Inch and Slumdog Millionaire show the challenges facing the polio eradication initiative

EVANSTON, Ill., Feb. 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Astute Oscar-watchers are getting a short course in polio eradication this year, thanks to two nominated films that together show the status of this paralyzing disease in India and Pakistan, two of the four countries where the virus has not been stopped.

The Final Inch, nominated for an Academy Award in the best documentary short subject category, chronicles the challenges health organizations and governments face during the final stages of polio eradication. The film follows health workers as they immunize Indian and Pakistani children, explaining how they overcome cultural misunderstandings that make some parents wary of the oral polio vaccine. Several scenes show Rotary club volunteers administering vaccine to children in Uttar Pradesh, India.

And while not addressing polio directly, best picture nominee Slumdog Millionaire graphically depicts the conditions that allow the poliovirus to circulate in India's slums, including poor sanitation, contaminated water, and overcrowding.

"The Final Inch shows us why it's critical to win the hearts and minds of the parents whose children are at risk," says Jonathan Majiyagbe, chair of the Rotary Foundation, which oversees Rotary's polio eradication program. "And if you view Slumdog Millionaire with polio in mind, you will see how easily the virus can spread from child to child in an environment of extreme poverty. Taken together, these two films show us some of the cultural and physical barriers we must overcome in order to achieve a polio-free world."

The Academy Awards will be announced Feb. 22.

Polio eradication has been Rotary's top priority for more than 20 years. The international humanitarian service organization 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.

Great progress has been made, and the incidence of polio infection has plunged by more than 99 percent, from about 350,000 cases in 1988 to fewer than 2,000 in 2008. More than two billion children have been immunized in 122 countries, preventing five million cases of paralysis and 250,000 pediatric deaths. Today, polio remains endemic to only four countries: India, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Afghanistan.

Rotary club members worldwide have contributed more than $800 million and countless volunteer hours to the effort. Rotary is currently raising $200 million to match $355 million in challenge grants received from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, all of it for polio eradication.

The money is needed to help close a funding gap that threatens to undermine two decades of progress. To learn more about polio eradication, including how to participate in this historic effort, visit rotary.org/endpolio today.


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SOURCE Rotary International
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