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.
Aug 13, 2015

A Polio-free Africa within Reach

Rotarians reach out to immunize every child
Rotarians reach out to immunize every child

July 24th marked one year since the last case of polio in Nigeria, the only remaining polio-endemic country in Africa. This achievement – the longest period Nigeria has gone without a case of the paralyzing disease – could signal the world will soon see a polio-free Africa, a significant global health milestone.

Rotary has been a leader in the fight to eradicate polio since 1985, when it launched the first global initiative to immunize the world’s children against polio: its flagship PolioPlus program. Rotarians have donated more than $1.4 billion to end polio globally along with countless volunteer and advocacy hours.

Nigeria’s last polio case occurred on July 24, 2014, in southern Kano state, and the continent of Africa has not seen a polio case since August 11, 2014. The World Health Organization (WHO) may soon remove Nigeria from the list of polio endemic countries. When Nigeria and every country in Africa go three years without a case of polio, WHO will certify the region as polio-free. Most recently, WHO declared India and its Southeast Asia region polio-free in 2014.

Experts caution that while today marks a noteworthy milestone, the world cannot take its sights off polio. The next two years will be critical to ensuring Nigeria remains on-track and prevent a resurgence of the disease. The support of donors, governments and partners is needed more than ever to ensure high-quality polio campaigns.

Last month, Rotary announced US$19 million in grants for continued polio eradication activities in Africa, including nearly $10 million for Nigeria. Over the past thirty years, Rotarians have given $688.5 million for polio eradication throughout Africa, and $207.4 million for Nigeria.

“Rotary’s 1.2 million members around the world – including the 6,890 in Nigeria – have played an important role in this progress. Rotary has worked with partners to successfully pioneer unique and innovative solutions to the challenges facing polio eradication in Nigeria,” said Dr. Tunji Funsho, Rotary’s National PolioPlus Committee chair for Nigeria.  “However, it is too soon to celebrate. The world needs to keep polio eradication a high priority to ensure the disease does not return within our borders.”

One of the unique ways Rotarians are getting involved in Nigeria is through the use of health camps, where polio vaccines are given along with a range of other health services and basic health supplies such as first aid kits, soaps and bed nets. Rotarians volunteer their time and also help pay for the medical supplies, which is helping to provide much needed access in at risk communities.  This is helping to build trust and secure a strong foundation for future public health initiatives in the country.

Beyond Nigeria, only Pakistan and Afghanistan remain polio-endemic. According to experts, Pakistan will prove the biggest challenge to global eradication efforts, with the country accounting for nearly 90% of the world’s cases in 2014. However, there has been recent progress in Pakistan, with the country reporting a nearly 70% reduction in cases in the first half of 2015 compared to the same time in 2014. Rotarians in Pakistan have adopted similar approaches to the ones utilized in Nigeria, and are hopeful that similarly success results will soon bring Pakistan and the world ever closer to the polio free goal.

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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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