Friday, June 6, 2008

South Berwick Woman Leads Hong Kong Volunteers in Fight Against Polio

As of May 29, Volunteers from Hong Kong have departed for India to help immunize children against polio, a devastating disease that still paralyzes and sometimes kills children in parts of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
These volunteers are members of Rotary, a worldwide humanitarian service organization that has polio eradication as its main philanthropic goal. Leading the group is polio survivor and Rotary member Ann Lee Hussey of South Berwick.
“I witnessed first hand the devastation polio had caused to the people of India. I saw crawlers, young and old, begging in the streets, dragging themselves by their hands and arms with legs twisted in unimaginable contortions,” said Hussey.
Beginning on June 1, the Rotary members will have joined other volunteers and health workers to administer drops of oral polio vaccine during a sub-National immunization program that will target 75 million children under age five in nine critical states in India: Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharash, Punjab, Uttarakhand, and West Bengal.
“Rotary has promised to give a world without polio to our children,” said Hong Kong Rotary member Kenneth Yuk Shing Chow. “We must fulfill our commitment. “
To that end, Rotary members in Hong Kong have appealed to local clubs in an effort to raise US$500,000 toward Rotary’s $100 million challenge grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
New methods and more effective oral polio vaccines have led to steady progress in India. Yet to date, India holds the highest number of polio cases of any single country this year, having reported 222 cases in 2008.
Overall, tremendous progress has been made toward a polio-free world in the last two decades. To date, the number of polio cases has been reduced from 350,000 children annually in the mid 1980s to 1,312 in 2007. Only four countries: Nigeria, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, are still polio-endemic.
Rotary has contributed US$84.3 million to fight polio in India, and more than US$700 million worldwide – a figure that will increase to $850 million once polio is eradicated. Besides raising and contributing funds, over one million men and women of Rotary have volunteered their time and personal resources to help immunize more than 2 billion children in 122 countries during national immunization campaigns.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is spearheaded by the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
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