Volunteers travel to Bangladesh to immunize children against polio
The team is part of global effort to eradicate the disease worldwide
Evanston, Ill (8-12 December) -- Next week, volunteers from the United States, Canada, Norway, and Denmark will head to flood ravaged Bangladesh to help immunize children against polio, a waterborne illness that still paralyzes and sometimes kills children in parts of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
These volunteers are members of Rotary, a worldwide humanitarian service organization that has polio eradication as its main philanthropic goal. The Rotary members will join other volunteers and health workers to administer drops of oral polio vaccine to children under age five.
Leading the group is Rotary club member and polio-survivor Ann Lee Hussey, of South Berwick, Maine. “Until polio is eradicated worldwide, every child remains at risk,” said Hussey. “Though we are close to reaching our goal, we must continue our efforts until every child is protected against the tragic consequences of this disease.”
Bangladesh reported 18 cases last year after being polio-free since 2000. Despite this recent outbreak, great progress has been made in Bangladesh. Before Rotary and its partners began the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) in 1988, an estimated 11,500 children developed polio each year in that country. No polio cases have been reported in Bangladesh this year.
Bangladesh is considered particularly at risk for polio now due to flooding caused by the recent cyclone, combined with its proximity to India, one of four countries where the disease remains endemic. To help knock out the poliovirus in the endemic countries and protect nations at risk, Rotary and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in November announced a US$200 million agreement that calls for Rotary to match a $100-million Gates Foundation grant, with all funds earmarked for polio eradication. Rotary will spend the initial $100 million in support immunization activities in 2008 and raise the matching funds over the next three years.
In addition to immunizing Bangladeshi children for polio, the volunteer team will distribute medical supplies, including bandages, antibiotics, vitamins and worming medication, to help with other health needs related to the flooding.
Additional relief for displaced cyclone victims also comes from ShelterBox, a disaster relief charity funded by Rotary clubs around the world. Each of the 630 pre-packaged ShelterBox kits en route to Bangladesh contains a 10-person tent and supplies sufficient to help a family of 10 survive for at least six months.
As a spearheading partner in the GPEI, Rotary’s commitment to end polio represents the largest private-sector support of a global health effort ever. In 1985, Rotary members worldwide vowed to immunize all children against polio. Since then, Rotary has contributed US$633 million to polio eradication, of which $17.5 million has supported immunization campaigns in Bangladesh. The other spearheading partners in GPEI are the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF.
Besides raising and contributing funds, over one million men and women of Rotary have volunteered their time and personal resources to help immunize more than two billion children in 122 countries during national immunization campaigns.
Rotary and its partners have made tremendous progress against polio. To date, the number of polio cases has been reduced from 350,000 children annually in the mid 1980s, to less than 2,000 cases all last year. In addition to India, only Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan remain polio-endemic, an all-time low.
Rotary is a worldwide organization of business and professional leaders united to provide humanitarian service and help to build goodwill and peace in the world. It is comprised of 1.2 million members working in over 32,000 clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas. Rotary members initiate community projects that address many of today’s most critical issues, such as poverty, violence, hunger, illiteracy and the AIDS pandemic.
For further information visit www.polioeradication.org.
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