Rotarian and STOP volunteer Jenny Horton immunizes a child against polio in Pakistan. Photo by Jean-Marc Giboux
"As a health professional, working toward the eradication of a disease has to be one of the greatest programs one can participate in."
The words of Jenny Horton, a nurse and member of the Rotary Club of Kenmore, Queensland, Australia, helped mark the 10th anniversary of the Stop Transmission of Polio (STOP) program, established by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). CDC hosted a celebration at its headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, in January. Attendees included Horton and other STOP team members, representatives from Rotary International and the World Health Organization, and current and former CDC staff.
STOP has taken Horton to Botswana, Ethiopia (twice), Nigeria, and Pakistan. She is one of more than 1,000 volunteer team members who have traveled to 60 countries to provide technical support for polio eradication since 1999.
The volunteers conduct field surveillance, train local health care providers in surveillance techniques, and help plan and monitor polio and measles vaccination campaigns. STOP also sends volunteers to support UNICEF in social mobilization, advocacy, and communications for immunization efforts in Africa and Asia.
"The STOP program was CDC's idea, and we met with several of the agency's 'smallpox warriors' to hear their thoughts on training and deploying staff for three-month assignments," said Dr. Steve Cochi, special adviser to the CDC Global Immunization Division director. "Based on their experience eradicating smallpox in the 1970s, they recognized the value of such a program and provided great input as we got started."
CDC's largest global health training program, STOP has received US$681,900 in grants from PolioPlus for volunteers' stipends.
"When the STOP program was established, some 7,000 cases of polio were reported, and more than 25 countries were polio endemic," said Robert Hall, Zone 34 coordinator for Rotary's US$200 Million Challenge and past governor of District 6900 (Georgia). "A decade later, only four countries remain polio endemic and, due to improvements in polio eradication strategies, we have more confidence than ever that polio can be eradicated in its remaining strongholds."
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