When Julia Yank and a team of Rotary members and health workers entered Kaduna, Nigeria, to immunize children against polio they expected to encounter some tough situations. They found one in a mother of three who stubbornly refused to have her children vaccinated.
"She argued with us for over 15 minutes," says Yank, a member of the Rotary Club of St. Clair County Sunset in O'Fallon, Illinois, USA. After the team explained to her the importance of what they were doing, she finally agreed to allow her children to be immunized.
"We were told later that she only consented because of the presence of the Rotarians. That moment, I realized the impact we can make," says Yank.
This type of persistence by Rotary and its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) has helped reduce the number of polio cases in Nigeria by half, as compared to this time last year. Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are the only countries in the world where the transmission of polio has never been stopped. Overall, polio cases in the three countries have decreased by 35 percent -- thanks in part to Rotary's advocacy with government and business leaders, PolioPlus grants, and mobilizing support on the ground.
From celebrating milestones and responding to outbreaks to signing commitments and honoring our supporters, learn how the Global Polio Eradication Initiative made a difference in 2013.
A year without type 3 polio
The last case of type 3 wild poliovirus (WPV3) occurred in Nigeria on 10 November 2012. Rotary and its GPEI partners have helped reduce transmission of WPV3 to its lowest levels ever. "Although it is too soon to say that WPV3 has been eradicated . . . the world has a unique opportunity to get rid of the second strain of wild poliovirus" (after WPV2), reports the GPEI.
$500,000 emergency grant for Syria
Confirmation of cases in previously polio-free Syria "serve as a stark reminder that as long as polio still exists, unimmunized children everywhere remain at risk," says Rotary's International PolioPlus Committee Chair Robert S. Scott. In response to the outbreak, Rotary and its GPEI partners, along with local health authorities, are conducting large-scale campaigns to immunize children in the region as quickly as possible. Rotary is the first donor to announce funding for the GPEI's new Middle East strategic plan, a $500,000 emergency grant for Syria.
Joint commitment with Brazil
On 12 November Rotary, Brazil's government, and the Pan American Health Organization signed a Declaration of Commitment and Collaboration toward the Goal of a Polio-Free World. The event took place at a symposium in São Paulo where strategies for eradicating the disease were discussed.
"The document highlights the importance of technical support and the exchange of experiences to support countries that are still fighting against the disease, and the need for continued financial and political commitment by the global community until the world is certified polio free," says PolioPlus Director Carol Pandak, who spoke at the event.
Rotary members in District 4420 in Brazil also announced their commitment to donate 40 percent of their District Designated Funds to PolioPlus. Through the End Polio Now: Make History Today fundraising campaign and World Fund match, these funds will be matched 2 for 1 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and generate $250,000 for polio eradication.
Ethiopian leader honored for polio-free achievement
As president of Ethiopia, Girma Wolde-Girogis played a pivotal role in helping his country be polio-free during his last five years in office. In recognition of his work, Girma received the Rotary International Polio Eradication Champion Award in November. Ethiopian native Ezra Teshome, governor of District 5030 in Washington, USA, presented the honor to Girma. Teshome was in Ethiopia leading a team of North American Rotary members to participate in the country's National Immunization Days.
Although the polio outbreak in the Horn of Africa has affected Ethiopia, a strong response has slowed the pace of transmission in the region. The polio endgame strategic plan, if fully funded, is equipped to stop such outbreaks.
"We will keep coming back until the disease is gone," says Teshome. "We are determined to get the job done."