The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International

Rotary is a volunteer organization of 1.2 million business, professional and community leaders united worldwide to provide humanitarian service. The mission is to enable Rotary's members to advance world understanding, goodwill and peace through the improvement of health, the support of education and the alleviation of poverty. Rotarians lead service programs in their communities and abroad that address today's most pressing challenges while encouraging high ethical standards in their vocations.
May 28, 2015

Vaccinators - the heart of polio eradication

Reaching children where they are
Reaching children where they are

Rotary stands with its partners on the brink of eradicating polio.  When we succeed, it will be only the 2nd disease in history behind smallpox that has been completely wiped off the face of the earth.  That historic effort has taken the work of many, from Rotarians to public health officials, governments and NGOS - all have contributed to the current status of the polio eradication effort.  So far in 2015 we have ony 24 cases of polio, with most of those found in some of the most geographically challenging regions in the world.  Still, we are finding new ways to reach children and ensure they not only receive the polio vaccine, but also other basic health services, proving that universal health care is achievable.

While Rotary and its partners have played an important role in the progress, the true recognition belongs to those who stand on the front lines of a long standing war with the polio virus, which has demonstrated itself a formidable foe. The vaccinators face a creative and persistant virus that finds its way into security challenged, remote areas.  It crosses borders, it intervenes in armed conflict and adapts itself to new environments. Despite these challenges, the vaccinators are proving to be more persistent.  Since 2013, these frontline workers have been attacked and killed in conflict areas of Pakistan and Nigeria, two of the three remaining countries where the polio virus still circulates.  There was talk that this might threaten progress to the program, but the vaccinators proved them wrong.  They kept going to work, reaching out to children in need, seeing in the faces of those children the hopes and dreams of their own.  It is with this courage and persistance that the program is able to move forward, reducing cases, reaching children, helping to educate and support families who are in need.

Nigeria has not seen a case of polio since July of 2014, and if they go a full year without a case they will be removed from the list of endemic countries, leaving just Pakistan and Afghanistan where the wild virus still circulates.  The polio network in Nigeria helped to quickly end the Ebola outbreak, illustrating the broader benefits the polio infrastructure is providing. And despite ongoing challenges in Pakistan, they are beginning to get their program back on track.  Rotarians are helping to make that progress happen, through permanent transit posts, health camps, and through incentives for the front line works who are at the heart of the battle.  We continue to marvel at the way each person plays an important role in this global effort to end a disease that has paralyzed too many children for far too long.  Thanks to the bravery of those who face the elements every day, one drop at a time, it won't be long before polio is a distant memory.  That is a legacy worth fighting for.  

Feb 24, 2015

Health Camps - Reaching beyond Polio in Pakistan

Pakistan remains one of the final reservoirs in the world where the wild polio virus circulates unrestrained. One of the major challenges to eliminating the virus are the misperceptions and mistrust that persist in high risk areas of the country, places where access to basic health services and education is limited. Rotarians are helping to address these misperceptions through the implementation of health camps, where families can receive polio drops, health services, sanitary and medical supplies and important educational materials. This is having an important effect on the program, helping to drive demand for the polio vaccine and developing a public health infrastructure and leaving a legacy that will endure long after the last polio case has been reported.

As community members and volunteers, Rotarians are particularly well placed to support these health camps in the polio affected communities. Rotary clubs in Pakistan provide the volunteer support for the health camps, helping to educate and raise awareness among the population and serving as monitors to ensure the quality and impact of the campaigns. Rotarians also provide funds for the medical supplies, such as first aid kits, medicines, and soaps that are distributed to families.   These are organized through Rotary-funded resource centers, working with local NGOS to implement the projects and gain the trust and support of the local population. Some of the typical treatments offered at health camps include HIV tests, TB, Malaria, cancer screenings and basic surgical treatments. Patients needing more advanced support are referred to relevant hospitals.

Rotarians also utilize health camps as an opportunity to conduct outreach within neighboring schools, holding sessions on health and hygiene and providing educational materials such as comic books, pencils, and first aid materials to reinforce the messages. Rotarians have developed a speaking book that teaches children about hygiene and helps educate them about the importance of polio drops. Teachers in every school are trained so they can further share these messages with students long after the volunteers have left.

Through involvement with local community member, innovative approaches like health camps are one of many ways Rotarians are seeking to make a difference in the health of vulnerable communities within Pakistan. Not only will this help to reach children with vital polio drops, it will also set a standard for public health that will continue to shape these communities for years to come. Rotarians in Pakistan have put their commitment to action in the places where it matters most, and they continue to make a difference, not only the fight against polio, but in improving health for children everywhere.

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Nov 20, 2014

Rotarians immunize children in Ethiopia

Giving polio drops
Giving polio drops

In early November, a group of 35 Rotarians from the US and Canada traveled to Ethiopia to participate in National Immunization Days (NIDs), a polio immunization campaign that helps ensure all children in the country receive the polio vaccine. As part of the campaign, volunteers go door-to-door, providing oral polio drops (OPV) to all of the children under 5 who have not yet been immunized.  It is an amazing process the requires meticulous planning and preparation, from determining on maps where the reach children, to keeping the vaccine cold in portable carriers, to organizing enough volunteers to travel door to door with the vaccine.  Ethiopia had an outbreak of polio in 2013 that began as a result of an importation from Somalia.  After intense outbreak response activities and a total of 10 cases, the last case in Ethiopia was reported in January 2014.  The Ethiopian government, together with Rotarians, and other public health organizations like WHO and UNICEF have been working to ensure no additional cases occur and the country can return to its polio free status. 

The group of Rotarians who joined this effort were headed by Ezra Teshome, a Seattle Rotarian and native Ethiopian who has been taking groups of volunteers to participate in NIDs for the last 19 years.  He is revered by everyone who meets him, both for his kind nature, and for his commitment to this longstanding cause as well as many other projects he supports in Ethiopia. The group participating in the NIDs were a diverse and passionate bunch.  Many had traveled in previous years to help immunize children, and developed their own projects as a result.  Denny, a polio survivor from the Washington area, is helping to build a hydratherapy pool at the polio rehabilitation center called The Chesire Homes that the group visited. Denny has just a few thousand dollars left to raise before the pool is finished, and the clients at the home will have the welcome relief of doing their therapy in water, which is much easier on their joints and withered leg muscles.

On 6-7 November, the Rotarians traveled out from Addis Ababa to the Adama area, where they participated in polio immunization activities in the surrounding rural communites.  They participated in a launching ceremony at a local grade school, where about 60 kids were immunized and then went door to door in farming communities where accessing children is a little more difficult. The families were very familiar with polio drops and eager to have their children immunized, and so the visitors in the orange End Polio Now t-shirts were a welcome site. I know every member of the Rotary team was touched by the opportunity to experience firsthand what it means to immunize a child against polio, and to know that child will never suffer from this debilitating virus.  We are truly within reach of our final goal, and look forward to the day when a trip to Ethiopia can take place in the context of a polio free world.

Polio Rehab Center
Polio Rehab Center
Playing soccer with the kids
Playing soccer with the kids
Happy children, jumping and playing
Happy children, jumping and playing
The whole group
The whole group
Hydrotherapy Project and Polio Rehab Clinic
Hydrotherapy Project and Polio Rehab Clinic

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