Polio survivors say ‘thank you’

Carol Ferguson presents the Collage of Gratitutde

Carol Ferguson, right, presents the Collage of Gratitude to Carol Pandak, Director of PolioPlus for Rotary International.

By Rotary staff

On 9 September, we received a visitor at Rotary International World Headquarters in Evanston, Illinois, USA, who reminded us just how important the fight to eradicate polio is.

Every year, fewer and fewer cases of polio are reported, bringing us one-step closer to a polio-free world. Before Rotary launched the PolioPlus program in 1985, some 350,000 people a year were infected with the disease worldwide. Carol Ferguson was one of those people. Continue reading

Fighting polio – an emergency response in Nigeria

Emergency Operations Center

The Emergency Operations Center in Abuja, Nigeria, kicks into action.

By Chris Offer, Rotary Club of Ladner, British Columbia, Canada

In late August 2016, I had the extraordinary opportunity to be in the National Polio Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Abuja, Nigeria. The center was activated to manage the response to two polio cases confirmed in Borno State.

I was in Nigeria as part of a Polio External Review team with the World Health Organization, CDC, and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that had been planned  months before. But with the discovery of new polio cases, our focus shifted. Continue reading

Polio survivor’s fight to live a normal life

Tingle, Beard and Rohling

Peggy Tingle with Neal Beard (left) and Keith Rohling, president-elect of the Lawrenceburg Rotary Club.

By Neal Beard, a member of the Rotary Club of Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, USA

“I was 18 when I contracted the disease,” Peggy said, as she spoke into a lowered, stationary microphone set up at the front of our meeting room. She spoke from a motorized wheelchair, reading from her notes.

Peggy was the guest speaker at our club meeting recently, and her story underscored for me why we need to remain committed to eradicating this terrible disease of polio. Statistics are one thing, but when you hear someone’s story who has battled the disease, it takes your emotional resolve to a completely different level. Continue reading

Our greatest gift to future generations

Hussey and children in Nigeria

Ann Lee Hussey and children in Nigeria

By Ann Lee Hussey, a member of the Rotary Club of Portland Sunrise, Maine, USA

Polio can affect children anywhere. The poliovirus doesn’t discriminate based on geography, skin color, or religion. If we don’t eradicate polio now, the world could see cases rebound to 200,000 new cases every year, within 10 years.

I’ve participated in 27 immunization campaigns, leading 23, throughout Africa and Asia, not because I’m a polio survivor, but because I believe polio eradication will be one of our greatest gifts to future generations. Continue reading

Why surveillance is so important to polio eradication

Surveillance workers

Amina Ismail, right, checks appointment registers for cases of polio – an essential part of surveillance efforts to trace this devastating disease. WHO/L.Dore

By Michael Zaffran, director of polio eradication for the World Health Organization

In a small health clinic in Tharaka Nithi, Kenya, Amina Ismail pours over a register documenting all of the doctors’ appointments from recent months, a nurse by her side. She is checking every record for symptoms of polio – the sudden onset, floppy arms and legs that signify acute flaccid paralysis.

As they work, she checks that the nurse knows what the symptoms are, and that she knows what she has to do if a child with acute flaccid paralysis is brought to the clinic. This detailed surveillance for polio, working hand in hand with those who know their communities best of all, has been the linchpin of the work of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). Continue reading

The story behind The Agents of Polio Eradication

By Rotary communications staff

How do you tell the story of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in comic-book form? That was the challenge that four Rotary staffers – Chris Brown, Brad Cowan, Kate Benzschawel and Stuart Cleland — faced in the summer of 2015. They needed an angle that would cover the major aspects of the GPEI’s work. But it had to be a story, not just a list of organizations and achievements. Continue reading

WHO’s new director of polio eradication: the end is in sight

Michel ZaffranIn February, Michel Zaffran will take over as director of polio eradication for the World Health Organization (WHO). Most recently, Zaffran has served as coordinator of WHO’s Expanded Programme on Immunization. He has also served as Deputy Executive Secretary of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI), and  represented WHO on the working group that designed and launched GAVI. We caught up with him recently to ask his thoughts about this new challenge:

I am extremely excited, but also emotionally very moved, to have been selected for this position. I started working for the World Health Organization in September of 1987 in the immunization program. A few months later in May the World Health Assembly endorsed the resolution to actually eradicate polio. I was just at a very junior level but remember seeing my bosses work on the resolution, and so I was there from the very beginning. So to actually toward the end of my career be coming back and heading the program for its last miles basically is very exciting and very moving. Continue reading

The face of polio immunization in Pakistan

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By Rotary Voices staff

Nigeria’s last case of polio caused by the wild poliovirus was reported on 24 July 2014, and the African continent has had no reported cases since 11 August 2014. The World Health Organization (WHO) removed Nigeria from the list of polio-endemic countries on 25 September. When Nigeria and every country in Africa have gone three years without a case of polio, WHO will certify the region as polio-free. Continue reading

Voices of polio survivors

Ann Lee Hussey administers polio drops to a child in Chad in 2013.

Ann Lee Hussey administers polio drops to a child in Chad in 2014.

By Rotary Voices staff

Stories from polio survivors remind us why we have spent three decades committed to the pursuit of wiping this crippling disease from the face of the earth. Below is a brief summary and a link to a few of those stories shared on Rotary Voices and elsewhere. Also watch our World Polio Day global update to see how close we are to ending polio.

Ann Lee Hussey contracted polio when she was 17 months old. A member of the Rotary Club of Portland Sunrise, Maine, USA, she has taken part in countless National Immunization Day Continue reading

Life is hard enough without having to deal with polio

Ethiopian children watch the immunization volunteers.

Ethiopian children watch the immunization volunteers.

By Corinne Cavanaugh

As I walked up to a pile of dirt bricks beside a cottage in a small village in Ethiopia, I noticed two things immediately: the telltale odor of farming and the mouth sores of four small children. I will never forget the moment I saw those children, the first of many who received two life-saving drops of polio vaccine.

Polio is a virus that attacks the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis, usually of the legs. In a developing country, polio paralysis could mean crawling around Continue reading