Rotary District 9102 celebrates WHO African Region wild-polio eradication efforts

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Rotary service clubs Rotary International and The Rotary Foundation believe solving real problems takes real commitment and vision.

In working to demonstrate lasting change in our communities and around the world to ending the fight against one of humanity’s most devastating diseases, Rotary International and partners as well as all ‘End Polio’ campaigners celebrate great victory toward the eradication of Polio in the WHO African region.

Polio remains prevalent only in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but it is crucial to continue working on keeping other countries polio-free – as clogged eradication efforts today could cause paralysis again. Just as the world eradicated small-pox, polio eradication is equally possible as sustained efforts to push polio out, if completed, will help achieve Polio-free world.

At the Sakasaka Park in Ashaiman, near Tema, the ‘End Polio’ billboard was unveilled by Rotary District 9102 to mark the achievement of 54 African countries in helping eradicate wild polio, a vaccine-preventable disease in Africa, under the theme ‘End Polio Now’.

Polio is an infectious disease caused by the Polio virus, affecting many children under the age of 5 years. This is contracted primarily through food and water. As a preventable disease, the Polio vaccine helps to protect the child for life when administered multiple times to children below the age of 5 years. Thousands of children have suffered from this Polio disease, causing paralysis and other forms of lifetime disabilities.

Since Nigeria has for three consecutive years passed without a trace of wild polio virus, Chairperson of the Ghana National Polio Plus committee, Past Assistant-Governor Nana Yaa Siriboe, said the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), partners and the African Region are pleased no case of wild polio virus has been reported in the WHO African Region, an achievement worth celebrating.

Rotary International as a volunteer service club has consistently since 1988 continued to volunteer and support eradication of this Polio menace. The Polio Plus campaign was as a result launched in 1985, as the first and largest internationally coordinated private sector support for a public health initiative. Its target of US$120million in fundraising was exceeded by 100%.

In May 1988, the 41st World Health Assembly held in Geneva Switzerland adopted a resolution for worldwide eradication of Polio. This occasion saw the launch of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative spearheaded by national governments, World Health Organisation, Rotary International, CDC, UNICEF and much later the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, just to mention a few.

The late former South African President Nelson Mandela together with Rotary International in 1996 launched the Kick Polio Out of Africa initiative to help eradicate polio from Africa. Rotary International has supported and collaborated on partnership, advocacy, fundraising and social mobilisation efforts to help the world achieve this goal.

As a result of Rotary International’s global efforts to end polio, Rotary has been there from the beginning until this achievement of a Polio-free Africa. This campaign demonstrated among other things that with strong commitment, coordination and determination it is possible to help polio eradication.

According to District Governor Yvonne Kumorji-Darko of District 9102: “Nine billion doses of oral polio vaccine have been provided, preventing an estimated 1.8 million cases of paralysis on the continent. To make the entire world safe from polio, it is critical to vaccinate every child and strengthen routine immunisation.

There are still pockets of children who are not getting the polio vaccine, which could lead to further outbreaks. To stop every form of polio, it is critical for every child to be reached with vaccines”. Rotarians have contributed nearly US$1billion toward polio eradication efforts in the African region alone, and US$1.8billion globally.

The funds have allowed Rotary to issue Polio Plus grants to fund polio surveillance, transportation, awareness campaigns and National Immunisation Days.

Outdooring the billboard in the community was to encourage every parent to have their children vaccinated against poliomyelitis come September 10 – 13, 2020, while adhering still to COVID-19 prevention protocols when the immunisation exercise commences.

To better create that awareness, Rotary ‘End Polio Now’ branded nose masks were shared with commuters around the Sakasaka Park leading toward the Ashaiman market. Each year, about 2 million volunteers help vaccinate 220 million children against polio multiple times in the African Region alone, and 2.5 billion children in 122 countries.

In Ghana – in government’s continued support for this initiative to eradicate polio – 52 Rotary Clubs and approximately 1,500 Rotarians join hands with the Ministry of Health, staff and nurses and partners to participate in our National Immunisation Day Exercise.

Dr. Fadinding Manneh, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative Coordinator in Ghana, commended the partners for their leadership and commitment as over 99 percent of polio cases were eradicated worldwide since 1988. “So, that is a great progress; but while polio remains anywhere in the world it is still a threat to everyone,” he said.

Also present at the event was the MCE for Ashaiman; a rep from the Ashaiman Traditional Council; and the Member of Parliament rep. from UNICEF and Ghana Health Service, who have all contributed immensely over the years in partnering Rotary on this front.

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