3 principles we use to beat the pandemic

Joe Otin

By Joe Otin, governor of Rotary District 9212

If ever in our lifetime there was a defining moment of earth-shattering proportions – this is it. The generation before us lived through World War II which universally altered the course of our destiny. From time immemorial our predecessors have faced seismic economic collapses, devastating armed conflict, climatic catastrophes, and other traumatic incidences that have led to desperation, death and destruction.

These developments in turn have forced us to remodel personal behavior, restructure established institutions, and generally change our way of life.

The attack on humanity by the coronavirus is monumental. From the initial outbreak in China to today, the world has been jolted into action because the initial strides taken by governments to stop the spread of COVID-19 across the globe fell short, as the statistics have come to show. Here in East Africa, our governments took unprecedented action, closing borders, grounding national carriers, and suspending public meetings with the intention to halt its advance.

What distinguishes defining moments in our history is not the nature of the crisis, but rather the quality of the decisions that we make. In the wake of the drastic measures taken by our political leaders to address the outbreak we, as Rotary, have had our own decisions to make. These decisions are guided by three simple principles.

  • The first one is that individual action has the greatest bearing on the disease, and this includes personal hygiene, social distancing, and other guidelines outlined by the World Health Organization. We must all take  individual responsibility to stop the spread of coronavirus.
  • The second is to support the government in its initiatives to flatten the curve as indeed it is the concerted effort by the private sector, public institutions, development organizations, and society as a whole that will stop this threat.
  • Thirdly, it is in sharing messages of hope and reminding people that together we will prevail, and that the disruption in our lives is not only momentary but it is also a crucial part of continuity.

From a global perspective, Rotary International’s Board of Directors has cancelled the international convention scheduled in June as the conditions amid the crisis are not projected to be favorable for hosting an event of this magnitude. This is the first time in history that the annual convention has been canceled altogether, and even through the World Wars the convention was convened, albeit smaller in scale. The Board has also decided to focus attention and assign resources to fight the pandemic. Funds from the reserves have been allocated to aid the disaster response initiatives across the world, and The Rotary Foundations has embarked on fundraising activities specific to this area.

Rotary members in Kenya are setting up handwashing stations.

In District 9212, we have canceled our district conference and instructed all Rotarians to suspend physical meetings. Without missing a beat, they have adopted wholeheartedly to virtual meetings on popular video conferencing platforms. The executive committee has set up a response team to support national administrations in Kenya, Ethiopia, and South Sudan, and past governor Dr. Geeta Manek has raised more than $20,000 in Kenya and Ethiopia.

The embodiment of Rotary clubs and their ultimate purpose is to embrace and support communities in need, and thus the world needs Rotary more now than ever before. Never in our lifetime has humanity been better equipped to crush a threat to our wellbeing of these dimensions. We have the technology to track it, the science to beat it, the media to coordinate our united action, and the heart to fight back.

It is through our determination and commitment that we give hope and healing to the world.

Keep up with what Rotary is doing on Facebook and Twitter at #RotaryResponds.

About the author: Joe Otin is the 2019-20 Governor of Rotary District 9212, and the Rotary International Representative to UN Environment. He is also the CEO of The Collective, a digital advertising agency, the chairman of the Advertising Standards Board of Kenya, and a board member of WWF-Kenya.

11 thoughts on “3 principles we use to beat the pandemic

  1. Pingback: 3 principles we use to beat the pandemic – How Rotary Serves | Rotary 9650 eClub

  2. Thank you DG Joe for your leadership during this pandemic. I am impressed by the way both the individual clubs and the D9212 are resounding in making all aware of the pandemic and how to be safe. As quoted by DG Jim above, we hope to progress through this season and come out the other side better.


    • Thank you Edward; we are faced with a major crisis and I am encouraged by how the Rotarians in our district are rising up to meet the challenges in our community. Only when we all work together can we interrupt the spread of the disease and move back to normalcy soon.


  3. I found your article negative and condescending to all of the hard working people trying to fight this pandemic. What have you done to help? Good people are dying trying to find a cure or vaccine for this virus. Don’t criticize, complain or condemn. Are your comments the truth, are they fair to ALL concerned, will it build good will and better friendships and will it be beneficial to all concerned. I don’t think so. We are Rotarians. Your comments don’t connect anyone.


    • Dear Linda,

      Thank you for your comments, and I’d like to quickly apologise if I offended you in any way. The article aimed to define the steps Rotarians International and Rotary District 9212 are taking to fight the pandemic.

      In our district it starts with the decisions we’ve made to focus our attention and resources towards interrupting the spread of the disease by promoting the individual action and personal responsibility required. We’ve shared the health message through our communication channels such as http://www.timeline.rotary9212.org, on social media and in our online Rotary club meetings that have taken root throughout the district.

      Secondly we are wholeheartedly supporting the governments of Ethiopia, Kenya and South Sudan and their National Emergency Response Committees in their initiatives to flatten the curve. We’ve raised up to $100,000 to deliver hand washing stations and soap to the most vulnerable communities, provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE’s) to front line health staff, and to provide food to low income families that have lost their jobs.

      In addition to this, we have joined hands with the Kenya Private Sector Association (KEPSA) to deliver flowers across Kenya to front line health staff who are spending their days risking their lives testing and attending to the sick.

      These are unprecedented times and they require unprecedented action and if we come together we will be able to offer hope to the world, and do what Rotary does best – support vulnerable communities in their time of need.

      All the best,



    • Pay no mind to Linda and her misplaced upsets and misfiring.

      This article was a good read and Linda doesn’t need your apologies. What she needs to do is take a look in the mirror and reverse her words unto herself.


  4. Dear Governor Joe. Humanity is facing a serious challenge of getting exterminated. We need to understand the might of nature and not to meddle with it. Biggest challenge for Rotarians after Polio eradication is a sustained campaign to make all aware of the cause of pandemic and how to ensure that it does not surface again. We have a major issue coming up; how to cope up with economic breakdown in poors after this.


  5. Dear DG Joe
    Welcome your your post and endorse your opinion. It is very essential for all the service organsations to unite to combat COVID-19.

    PDG Prof. Chandrashekar Alilaghatta India


  6. Op-ed from a fellow Rotarian, Ira Helfand
    Ira was a keynote speaker at the 2020 World Peace Conference in Ontario, California this past January.

    Will Covid-19 save the world?

    If there is one lesson we can learn from this crisis it is this: When the experts tell us the sky is going to fall if we don’t take action, we better take action or the sky really may fall.

    And we must apply this lesson to the two other existential threats that humanity faces: the climate crisis and the growing danger of a nuclear war.

    Despite these clear warnings (about a global pandemic), world leaders failed to prepare, and the general public did not mobilize to make them take action. It is not possible to prevent the emergence of new pathogens capable of causing a global pandemic, but it is possible to prepare an adequate response to these diseases when they do emerge. We didn’t, and now the world is paying a terrible price.


  7. DG Joe

    Good post!
    Rotary connects the world; unfortunately COVID-19 does also.

    Had to look up WWF – Kenya And your involvement.

    First thought on WWF in the United States is world wrestling Federation. Did not think That would be the case and Kenya.
    Like we have in the past, we will pull through this and as Simon Sinek “author“ has told us, we have progressed through changes previously and have come out the other side for the better.

    DG Jim Pierce
    District 5220


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