Polio can affect children anywhere. The poliovirus doesn’t discriminate based on geography, skin color, or religion. If we don’t eradicate polio now, the world could see cases rebound to 200,000 new cases every year, within 10 years.
I’ve participated in 27 immunization campaigns, leading 23, throughout Africa and Asia, not because I’m a polio survivor, but because I believe polio eradication will be one of our greatest gifts to future generations.
People sometimes talk about how much money we can save if we eradicate polio. It’s reported that we could save $40 billion to $50 billion over the next 20 years if we eradicate the disease soon, and the economic impact on families and communities that are affected by polio is staggering.
During my first trip to Nigeria in 2008, I immunized children in very rural areas. We walked through millet fields, down dirt roads, and across fields with grazing cows to reach clusters of homes. During a visit to one village, I met Uma, who was 11 at the time. Uma had never been to school. As a polio victim, she only had the ability to walk on all fours and the closest school was miles away from her community.
Uma moved me. Her story motivated me to help this community. My fellow health workers told me that I had a unique opportunity to speak with the state governor and request that the village be granted a school. I developed a relationship with the state governor and we began talks about building a school.
“If we invest the additional $1.5 billion needed to eradicate polio, we’ll not only save dollars, we’ll save countless lives and prevent children from suffering from this completely preventable disease.”
After a few more visits, my friend and local Rotary leader Saliu Ahmed and I suggested the village members set up a temporary school to show the governor why they needed funding. When I returned 10 months later, the village had built a small school, made with mud walls and a thatched roof. This effort proved to the state governor the need for the school. The governor told me, “on your next visit, you will have a new school and when you return, we’ll talk about something else.”
The new school was a larger, cement block building. We provided Uma a wheelchair so she could attend school more easily.
Catalyst for change
I’m impressed with how a simple trip meant for immunization was a catalyst for so many other developments. After I met Uma, we built a school, a public toilet, two wells with solar panel pumps, and a bridge providing year-round access to surrounding communities. Uma’s village became the gathering point for nearby settlements.
My story about Uma and her village is not the only one of its kind. When immunizing, Rotarians see other needs and reach out to help. I find that the infrastructure put in place to vaccinate children against polio provides the foundation to improve other conditions in communities and countries.
If we invest the additional $1.5 billion needed to eradicate polio, we’ll not only save dollars, we’ll save countless lives and prevent children from suffering from this completely preventable disease. Rotary members began this journey and we need to press on to the journey’s end.
- Ann Lee Hussey, a member of the Rotary Club of Portland Sunrise, Maine, USA in Rotary Voices
More than 6,000 Rotary members in 154 countries reported on their experiences with the new grant model as part of an evaluation during the 2015-16 Rotary year. The results will help us improve the grant process and learn what impact the Foundation's global grants have on our areas of focus.
The Rotary Foundation Programs Committee conducted the evaluation of the grants program, the largest and most comprehensive that the Foundation has done. The summary report outlines the actions taken as a result of the survey, along with the next steps.
Source: Rotary International
In Nigeria, if we’re diligent and careful, we may never see another child lose the use of their legs to polio.
Thirty years ago, millions of children went unvaccinated against a preventable disease that persisted and paralysed in nearly every country in the world. Since then, the number of unvaccinated children has dropped precipitously. While we still have work to do to ensure not even one child is missed, the biggest challengeNigeria has to contend with now is complacency.
On 24 July 2016, Nigeria reached two years without a case of wild polio. That is commendable. But if reaching this landmark has left many euphoric, totaleradication would be historic. If Nigeria and the rest of Africa can make it to July 2017 without a case of polio, we will be officially polio free. To do this, we have to consolidate the progress we have already made, and vigorously invest in our collective capacity to contain and wipe out the disease wherever it may linger.
To banish polio from Nigeria and the rest of the continent, we must vaccinate every child. To miss even one would be to leave the door open for wild polio virus to return, or to risk outbreaks of vaccine-derived polio virus, a very rare form of polio that can emerge in under-immunised populations.
In Nigeria and across Africa, national governments have been instrumental in supporting this last-mile effort. So too have local civil society leaders, religious and traditional chiefs. All have been backed by the incredible commitment of the continent’s health workers. It is through these networks that we are able to quickly, aggressively and effectively respond to the last vestiges of polio in some of the most remote corners of the world.
Since President Muhammadu Buhari took office last year, he has clearly stated that he is committed to ending polio in Nigeria. Earlier this month, following a meeting with Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organisation’s regional director for Africa, Buhari called for a reinvigorated approach to guaranteeing Nigeria’s polio-free status by prioritising public funding to health programmes and to innovative strategies that have enabled the country to immunise millions of children even in hard-to-reach and insecure areas. While national commitment is critical, state governors and local officials need to act on Buhari’s message. They must not only pledge to keep Nigeria polio-free, but also ensure all our children have access to the vaccines they need to protect them from killer diseases.
Nigeria already has the opportunity to develop a great legacy. In the past two years, polio surveillance networks have been used to monitor and contain the 2014 Ebola outbreak, as well as responding to measles and rubella outbreaks throughout Africa.
Nigeria should also take the lessons learned from its emergency operations centres – which have been used to great effect for polio and were instrumental in stopping Ebola – to monitor and control disease outbreaks such as Lassa fever, and provide better health services to the large population of internally displaced people.
I know better than most that the obstacles that stand in the way of eradication are not to be discounted. The violent insurgency in north-east Nigeria has made routine vaccination exceedingly difficult in certain parts of the country, and finding and vaccinating children displaced by violence remains a major challenge. Nonetheless, the eradication of polio is not a luxury. We have come too far and invested too much to rest on our laurels.
Those who have dedicated their lives to improving public health are said to run on impossible idealism and a tenacious commitment to the greater good. Few of them are ever lucky enough to bring a definitive end to such a devastating disease. For all of the children whose lives have been irreparably damaged by an entirely preventable illness, let’s come together and call on our leaders at home and abroad to make polio a distant memory.
Today,Nigeria is marking a major milestone in the polio eradication effort: two years without a single new case of wild polio. This success extends continent-wide, with Africa expected to mark the same milestone on August 11. If the African region succeeds in going another year without polio, it will be certified polio-free in 2017, taking us one step closer to a polio-free world.
This is incredible progress, but it hasn’t come easy. Over the past few years, thousands of volunteer health workers, government officials, traditional and religious leaders have dedicated their careers and lives to the eradication effort. New strategies have been implemented to deliver polio vaccines to nomadic populations, families living in remote, and sometimes insecure areas. Rigorous disease surveillance networks were set up improve monitoring for any new emergence of polio, and new microplans helped ensure no children were missed by vaccines.
Now, as the world’s attention has shifted to Pakistan and Afghanistan – the last two polio-endemic countries – Nigeria and the rest of Africa still face a difficult task ahead: staying polio-free. This means both sustaining the hard work that has already happened, and continuing to make improvements. It means strengthening political and financial commitment at all levels of government and filling any gaps in disease surveillance. It also means further improving vaccination coverage and campaign quality, particularly in hard-to-reach, insecure and underserved areas.
We must also remember that keeping Nigeria and Africa polio-free isn’t just about a single disease. The infrastructure created to end polio is making a dramatic impact on the overall health of communities.
I saw this first-hand when Ebola emerged in Lagos, Nigeria, in July 2014. I was living in Abuja at the time, working as the Deputy Incident Manager/Chief Operations Officer of Nigeria’s Polio Emergency Operations Center, a unique model for coordinating polio eradication activities. We saw that our work to end polio offered important lessons, infrastructure and resources for stopping the outbreak, so I packed my bags and headed to Lagos. There we worked to set up a similar operations center to coordinate the Ebola response, and fortunately it proved to be effective. The Ebola outbreak in Nigeria was declared over just three months after it started. If we didn’t have the resources and knowledge we had gained after years of battling polio, the outcome could have been very different, with devastating consequences as we witnessed in neighboring countries.
The polio experience and infrastructure may once again prove critical in responding to other health emergencies, but, just as importantly, it can be used for disease prevention. As a result of the polio program, frontline health workers are delivering other critical health interventions to children in hard-to-reach and insecure areas, including vitamin A supplements, measles vaccinations and treatment of common diseases such as malaria. Surveillance networks used to identify poliovirus in the environment and trace contacts during outbreaks are also helping countries better map and monitor the presence of other diseases and respond quickly to outbreaks.
Today, we’re closer than ever before to a polio-free future – but the work in Africa is not done. Keeping Nigeria and Africa polio-free requires us to remain focused on reaching every child with vaccines and improving the systems we have in place to monitor and stop outbreaks.
As with most of life’s journeys, it is that last mile, that last hurdle or how we turn that last corner that requires us to muster the best parts of our abilities. If we do it right, if we succeed, then we can ensure a world free of a polio and a healthier future for children everywhere.
- Faisal Shuaib, Senior Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Source: End Polio Now
In preparation of the 2017 Rotary International Convention, Rotary received a record number of paid pre-registrations during the 2016 convention. With nearly a year before the convention begins, more than 21,000 attendees have already registered, far exceeding previous convention totals for the initial May-June registration period. The 2017 Rotary International Convention will be held in Atlanta, coinciding with the centennial of the Rotary Foundation, which was established during the 1917 convention in Atlanta.
The convention pre-registration announcement comes on the heels of significant strides made against the eradication of polio, Rotary's flagship cause. With just two polio-endemic countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan, there is an opportunity this year to see the last case of polio, giving convention attendees an additional reason to celebrate.
"Rotary's International Convention is a time for Rotary members of all backgrounds and walks of life to come together in celebration of their friendship and mutual dedication to service," said Rotary International President John Germ. "I'm so pleased that once again the great city of Atlanta will be our 2017 host city. With more than 21,000 registrants so far, and thousands more expected attendees, I'm certain the 2017 convention will be one of the largest in Rotary history. I look forward to working with the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau and Rotary's Host Organizing Committee over the coming months to create an unforgettable experience for all those involved."
Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau (ACVB) and Georgia Department of Economic Development representatives attended the 2016 Rotary International Convention in Korea to pre-promote Atlanta. Both organizations provided pre-and post-trip planning for attendees who registered while on site in Korea. Attendees were further incentivized by a discounted pre-registration rate offered in recognition of the 100th Anniversary of the Rotary Foundation.
"We are excited to welcome Rotary International back to Atlanta for the Foundation's centennial celebration," said William Pate, president and CEO, ACVB. "Atlanta has a long history with Rotary International and it is a special opportunity to welcome Rotary members from around the world to our city."
The 2017 Rotary International Convention will be held June 10-14 at the Georgia World Congress Center. The last time Rotary held its international convention in Atlanta was in 1970.
Established in 1913, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau is the official destination marketing organization for the city and serves to favorably impact Atlanta's economy through conventions and tourism. A private, not-for-profit organization, ACVB bolsters Atlanta's $15 billion hospitality industry, which generated nearly 51 million visitors in 2015. Visit atlanta.net for more information.
CONTACT: Audrey Carl, 217-840-0443 or email@example.com
Posted by Ambalakat Ram Mohan on July 22, 2016 at 5:24pm
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