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Working with Polio Eradication

December 6th, 2011





Many travellers who have visited our clinics will have received polio vaccination. One of our patients has kindly written this piece for our newsletter. Jenny Horton is an Australian Rotarian who has volunteered with the program for over 10 years in Ethiopia, Botswana, Nigeria, Pakistan and now India.

Jenny writes …

It is great to see the situation now, where truly eradication is in sight. Serving the program has taken me to all levels of the program, from remote areas to advocacy visits at national level, from working in a rubbish dump to ensure all children living there are vaccinated to inaugurations at the Chief Ministers home.

It has been a privilege to serve humanity in this way, to know the work done by so many is actually making an impact in the world. Over 5 million disabilities have been prevented in children. Health infrastructure is being developed that is already serving for elimination of other diseases (eg measles).

For most people in western countries under 50 years of age, polio is not a familiar disease, but in developing countries until recently, persons disabled by polio were very visible. In 1978 an Australian accountant was President of Rotary International, and made initial enquiries about what Rotary could do to make an impact on the world. In this way, Sir Clem Renouf of Nambour started the ball rolling on what is now the largest public health initiative ever undertaken. Rotary International has partnered with WHO, UNICEF and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and many others working in all corners of the world towards the eradication of Polio.

Campaigns are managed by the government with support from the polio partners. In India for example; in one national polio campaign over 172 million children were vaccinated with 2,400,000 volunteers door knocking every house to ensure all children were reached with the Oral Polio Vaccine.
Polio vaccination in the rubbish dump!

In 1988, at the start, there were 350,000 polio cases per year in 125 countries. In 2009 there were 1604 cases globally in only 4 endemic countries. Great progress is being made towards the eradication of the second disease in the world.

Rotary Australia continues to fundraise for this program. Bill Gates donated $355M to Rotary for polio eradication stating that rotary had to raise $200M. Currently there is a campaign underway to raise those funds so the program can continue.
No child deserves to live with a disability that is preventable, and thanks to an Australian Rotarian, and many others, at least one more disease is on the way to eradication. More info on Rotary’s polio eradication work here.

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