ROTARY ROUND-UP: Rotarian’s experience of the polio fight

Rotarian Valerie Trevor gives a child a 'purple pinkie' to signify that they have received the polio immunisation
Rotarian Valerie Trevor gives a child a 'purple pinkie' to signify that they have received the polio immunisation

This week, David Chapman, from the Rotary Club of West Worthing, gives an update on the latest and future goings-on.

We often mention the worldwide Rotary project to rid the world of the dreadful polio disease.

There has been so much success so far – in 1985 there were 350,000 reported new cases of polio worldwide, and now in 2018 it is reported that there are only 37 cases worldwide.

It was therefore interesting to hear from Valerie Trevor, current president of Rotary of Shoreham & Southwick, who had the wonderful opportunity to join a recent visit to India to take part in an End Polio Now immunisation programme.

In India in 1995 there were 500 new cases per day – now there have been no new cases since 2011 and in 2014 India was declared polio free.

However, the process of immunisation has to continue, for there is a very real threat that the disease could break out again.

Valerie joined a group of Rotarians earlier this year who travelled to India to assist with the annual Indian polio immunisation programme.

Val described her arrival at Delhi airport where she faced up to what appeared to be a breathtaking colourful chaos.

There were 100 UK Rotarians in the group and they were split into four teams to work in the areas where the immunisations were taking place.

The Rotarians were treated to a tour of the local medical facilities before heading off the next day to a district called Gurugram, to which Val’s team had been allocated.

They arrived at a small shopping centre to find the children sitting waiting and started work straightaway.

Just two drops of the vaccine from a dropper were administered onto the tongue of each child.

Each child then received a mark on the little finger, a ‘purple pinkie’ to identify those that had received the protective medication. This ensured that no child was missed out or given an extra dose.

The last day of the programme was a ‘mopping up session’.

The teams went into the slums and to the homes of those that did not attend on the previous days.

The local health workers who live in the area knew the families that had been missed and the children were ready and waiting.

In spite of the apparent chaos which greeted them, Val was impressed with the efficiency of the process.

Delhi’s population of 25 to 27 million shows how immense the programme is.

While India is now polio free there are still three countries that remain areas of concern – Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan – where conflict and other issues make it difficult to implement a full programme of immunisation.

There are many groups who have committed themselves to the eradication of polio, but Rotary is one of the leaders in this campaign, having raised more than 1.4 billion US dollars worldwide, with £20million from British Rotarians.

There is confidence that with the energy and dedication of members of all the organisations involved, polio can be defeated to become a disease of history.

Val said: “It was surprising how deeply involved the Rotarians from the Indian Rotary Clubs were in the organisation and operation of the polio immunisation. It illustrates how Rotary is a great organisation, truly global. I am proud to be a part of it.”

Details of Worthing’s three Rotary clubs are:

• Worthing Rotary Club meets Monday, 12.55pm, at the Chatsworth Hotel, in The Steyne, Worthing, 01903 209564.

• West Worthing Rotary Club meets Tuesday evening at Tudor Close, Ferring, 01903 501961.

• Worthing Steyne Rotary Club meets Monday evening at The Ardington Hotel, in Steyne Gardens, Worthing, 07788 638757.

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