Rotary’s support for polio eradication making a key difference
Top: Ghulam Nabi Azad, India's minister of health and family welfare, discusses India's progress toward polio eradication with Rotary leaders and staff at RI headquarters. Bottom: International PolioPlus Committee Chair Robert Scott, RI President Kalyan Banerjee, Azad, and Rotary Foundation Trustee Chair William Boyd. Rotary Images/Alyce Henson
Rotary International has played a major role in helping the Global Polio Eradication Initiative make continued progress and overcome obstacles in the drive to rid the world of the disease.
Since October 2010, Rotary has provided almost US$40 million for polio surveillance, immunization campaigns, and technical assistance in several countries. In India, only one case of polio has been reported since January of this year.
“My country has benefited greatly from your support and I thank all of you,” said Ghulam Nabi Azad, India's minister of health and family welfare, speaking to Rotary leaders and staff at RI headquarters in Evanston, Illinois, USA, on 23 September. He credited Rotary with “not only the mobilization of funds, but the active participation of Rotarians in the field with our operations” for helping his country near the goal of polio eradication.
“Rotary has invested heavily in surveillance in India over the last 12 months,” said Bruce Aylward, the World Health Organization’s assistant director-general for polio eradication and related areas, at a mid-September meeting of Rotary’s International PolioPlus Committee. “That’s the reason we can say with confidence that we think we’re getting close to zero [cases] in India.”
The wild poliovirus (types 1 and 3) is endemic in only four countries: Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan. Nigeria has maintained a 95 percent drop in polio cases in the past 24 months. Even though the number of cases in Pakistan has increased by 70 percent in 2011 compared to last year, only one case of type 3 polio has been reported.
“[Rotary’s] funding for Pakistan has helped us to bring type 3 to the verge of eradication in all of Asia,” Aylward said.
After transmission of the wild poliovirus had been reestablished in Angola and Southern Sudan, Rotary’s support for immunization campaigns made a critical difference in stopping them, he said.
Rotary helped stem the tide in the Republic of the Congo as well. Calling the spike in polio cases there “the worst, most fatal outbreak we had seen in years,” Aylward said that Rotary’s funding spurred both government action and substantial support from other donors.
Rotary is also funding research to evaluate new vaccine strategies and how they can enhance the quality of immunization campaigns.
Over the last 12 months, Rotary’s investments in polio eradication “underpinned the largest coordinated public health operations in the world,” Aylward said. “They leveraged the use of 1.7 billion doses of OPV [oral polio vaccine] to vaccinate 400 million kids in 183 campaigns in 47 countries. They were right on the mark, and all of them can be linked to real progress.”
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