Rotary continues push to eradicate polio – for good

A Pakistani child is vaccinated against polio by a health worker in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, Nov. 25, 2013. On Saturday, militants kidnapped four school teachers who were working on a polio vaccination drive in Khyber's Sipah village, said local government official Khurshid Khan. Negotiations are underway for their release, he said. Militants have killed over a dozen polio workers and police protecting them over the last year and they claim the health workers are spies and the vaccination is meant to make Muslim children sterile. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen) NNL-150217-122751001
A Pakistani child is vaccinated against polio by a health worker in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, Nov. 25, 2013. On Saturday, militants kidnapped four school teachers who were working on a polio vaccination drive in Khyber's Sipah village, said local government official Khurshid Khan. Negotiations are underway for their release, he said. Militants have killed over a dozen polio workers and police protecting them over the last year and they claim the health workers are spies and the vaccination is meant to make Muslim children sterile. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen) NNL-150217-122751001

One child for every Banburian – 45,000 – was immunised against polio last year thanks to the efforts of the Rotary Club of Banbury.

But the club has not stopped its work there.

Internationally, the Rotary Club is aiming to eradicate polio by 2018 and Banbury is doing its bit towards that target.

As well as planting thousands of crocuses across the town and surrounding area, crocus concerts are being held next month in a bid to raise awareness of the disease and encourage people to get involved.

Polio affected 350,000 people in 125 countries a few decades ago, but has now been eradicated in much of the world.

Worldwide, Rotary members have raised US$1.2billion towards combating the disease.

Speaking to the Banbury Guardian, Rotarian Fred Riches, who has been heavily involved in the End Polio Now campaign, said there was still a battle ahead.

“We have only three countries in the world where the polio virus is still endemic,” he said.

“All of them are countries in difficult situations politically and some are suspicious of the programme as well so there is that to overcome.

“The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given tremendous support to Rotary in this battle.

“Together, we are looking to eradicate polio by 2018, but whether that will be achieved or not remains to be seen. All we can do is our best to raise funds towards it.”

He added the campaign had also raised awareness of the disease for those who had never seen the impacts of polio.

He said: “We have seen the effects of the disease through the television and it still comes up now and again in shows like Call the Midwife, which is where most people are seeing it.

“Polio was a disease which used to be about in this country.

“People had to wear calipers and it was a life-shortening disease. It was a horrifying scenario where people were coming down with this condition.

“We don’t face that these days but there is quite good coverage of the issue on TV from time to time.”

He added athletes such as Nigerian wheelchair basketball player and Paralympian Ade Adepitan, who had polio as a child, helped keep the disease in the spotlight.

“It is also brilliant this issue has been taken on by the local community and the schools which means every child between the ages of 11 and 18 is aware of the battle that is going on and is taking part,” he said.