Rotary disburses first US$40 million from Gates Foundation grant
(top photo) Rotary Foundation Trustee Carolyn Jones of Alaska, USA, who was in India for a district conference, administers oral polio vaccine to a child during an NID. Photo courtesy of Carolyn Jones.
(bottom photo) RI Director Kjell-Åke Åkesson of Sweden, a member of the NID team, gets ready to immunize a child in India. Photo courtesy of Kjell-Åke Åkesson.
Nine countries and two World Health Organization regions have received The Rotary Foundation’s first distribution from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s $100 million challenge grant for polio eradication. Made in January, the US$40 million disbursement is being used by WHO and UNICEF to carry out immunization activities in the four remaining polio-endemic countries — Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan — plus five others where “imported” polio cases have been reported. Surveillance and technical support are also being funded in WHO’s African and Eastern Mediterranean regions.
Salim Habayeb, WHO’s representative in India, calls Rotary International “a cherished partner” and says the funding “will ensure the continuation of high-quality surveillance and the sustainability of technical assistance.”
“This tremendous support comes at a crucial time for the polio eradication effort,” says Gianni Murzi, UNICEF’s representative in India.
Since the grant distribution, Rotarians have continued their hands-on support to maximize the push to end polio. A team of 54 Rotarians and friends from Australia, Canada, France, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States helped promote and carry out India’s National Immunization Days (NIDs) in February, which reached more than 170 million children.
Joined by members of the Rotary Club of Delhi-West and nearly 100 students from a local Rotary club-sponsored school, the team took part in a rally in Sohna to promote the NIDs. Among the students, who all wore PolioPlus caps, were many polio victims, as was one of the Delhi-West Rotarians.
The team worked hand in hand with community members throughout the NIDs. “Along with us was a young girl, a Muslim, of about 17 years,” Elias Thomas, of the Rotary Club of Sanford-Springvale, Maine, USA, reports on the team’s blog (http://rotarydreamteam-india2008.blogspot.com). “She was a member of the Interact club in her town and served as our translator. There were always local volunteers who were dispensing the vaccine, but they were so pleased to have us assist them.”
“It is the most amazingly exhilarating and dramatically humbling experience,” reports Mark Brown, of the Rotary Club of St. John’s Northwest, Newfoundland, Canada. “Immediately, we were poured on by people wanting their children vaccinated. No time to ponder. Just two drops in each child’s mouth and a permanent marker on the finger to show they’d been done. The mothers were so happy their child was treated.…We met some amazing Indian Rotarians today.”
“Now is the time to step up the momentum to get polio out of India forever,” says Deepak Kapur, chair of India’s PolioPlus committee. “Communication is necessary in getting families to understand the benefits of immunization, and is a critical piece of the overall strategy to make that happen.”