By Ralph Munro, Rotary Club of Seattle, Washington, USA
2011 marked my 11th year in Africa on our quest to eradicate polio from the face of the earth. I can tell you that we are winning the battle, but it is difficult. When we started more than a decade ago, many countries had thousands of cases of polio annually. Slowly we are narrowing it down and beating it back.
Each year we take 40 to 50 Rotarians and family members to work with local African Rotary clubs in an effort to vaccinnate children. Our leader is Ezra Teshome of the University Rotary Club in Seattle. Ezra was born and raised in East Africa and now is a Seattle business leader. Three of us assist him each year as delegation leaders.
This year we had 70 folks from the USA, Canada, and Great Britain traveling with us. That is a big group, but our team was terrific. Not only did we work on polio, but we also restored bore holes [water wells], built houses, put hot and cold water into a birthing center, provided school supplies, paid educational expenses for many students, and served as cheerleaders for local health workers and departments.
The country that we have spent the most time in over the years is Ethiopia. It is an incredibly beautiful land that used to be burdened with thousands of cases of polio. Today, Ethiopia is no longer endemic.
There are many opportunities for accomplishments in life. But I can think of no better goal than to eradicate the disease of polio from the face of the earth. Every time I vaccinate a child it causes me to wonder: What will happen to this precious little baby? Where
will this child end up?
Of course, I never have the answer. The only thing I know is that this little baby will never have polio.