Seahouses Rotarian reaches out to help keep India free from polio

Rotarian Roger Howell is supporting National Immunisation Day by travelling to the most at-risk areas of India to immunise thousands of children.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 27 February, 2016, 11:00
Seahouses Rotary Club's Roger Howell.

Roger, from Seahouses and District Rotary Club, will be joining a group of 106 volunteers from across Great Britain and Ireland, and will also meet up with other Rotary International members from Belgium, Luxemburg, USA and Japan to help with the immunisation.

This is an extremely encouraging response to keep India polio-free, after the tremendous efforts to eradicate the disease from the area.

Although the country was declared free from the disease in 2014, there is still the real risk of re-infection from the cases found in nearby Pakistan and therefore it is essential that high levels of immunisation are maintained.

Roger, who is travelling to India with the project for the first time, said: “It is incredible to think that since making the pledge in 1985 to eradicate polio, Rotarians have pulled together to combat the disease all over the world.

“Travelling to India and working with fellow Rotarians illustrates how important it is to be involved in community projects that are not just on your doorstep.”

The aim of this year’s National Immunisation Day is to vaccinate more than 172million children under the age of five, nearly three times the size of the UK population.

In order to do so, the Rotary office in Delhi has allocated five locations where the International Rotarian volunteers will be placed to assist the local Rotary members, namely Delhi, Kolkata, Ludhiana, Bhidawi and Karnal.

The immunisation, which is administered by two simple drops on the tongue, can be carried out easily by someone with no medical experience, and is crucial to keeping polio at bay.

Rotary then hopes to continue to send out volunteers in the coming years, until this type of immunisation is replaced with an injection, a procedure that would require medically-trained personnel.

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Roger continued: “It’s important that we don’t lose momentum if we are going to beat this disease and the large group of Rotarians travelling out this year illustrated that we are still as passionate as ever. If you want to make a difference, you could join your local Rotary Club or donate.”

Polio is a life-threatening and crippling virus, which largely attacks children under the age of five. There is no cure for it, but it can be prevented.

Rotary made the promise in 1985 to eradicate polio from the world.

At that time there were 125 endemic countries. Now there are just two: Afghanistan and Pakistan.

This promise made by Rotary International resulted in the formation of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) of which the spearhead partners are Rotary, the WHO, Unicef, CDC and more recently the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Rotarians globally have directly raised more than $1.2billion since the campaign started and have been responsible for further donations of $9billion through their advocacy efforts.

Thanks to Rotary’s help and the work of its partners and other contributors more than two billion children have been protected from the disease. It is estimated that five million children have been spared from disability and 250,000 deaths have been averted.

To donate to End Polio Now or to join Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland, visit www.rotarygbi.org or contact your local club.