It’s been three years since health officials last reported a case of polio caused by the wild poliovirus in Nigeria. The milestone, reached on 21 August, means that it’s possible for the entire World Health Organization (WHO) African region to be certified wild poliovirus-free next year.
Nigeria’s success is the result of several sustained efforts, including domestic and international financing, the commitment of thousands of health workers, and strategies to immunize children who previously couldn’t be reached because of a lack of security in the country’s northern states.
“Rotary, its Global Polio Eradication Initiative partners, and the Nigerian government have strengthened immunization and disease detection systems,” says Michael K. McGovern, chair of Rotary’s International PolioPlus Committee. He adds: “We are now reaching more children than ever in some of the hardest-to-reach places in Nigeria.”
McGovern says Rotary members in Nigeria play an important role in ridding the country of the disease. “Rotarians have been hard at work raising awareness for polio eradication, advocating with the government, and addressing other basic health needs to complement polio eradication efforts, like providing clean water to vulnerable communities.”
Nigeria is the last country in Africa where polio is endemic. Once Africa is certified as free of the wild poliovirus, five of the WHO’s six regions will be free of wild polio. Polio remains endemic in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which means transmission of the virus has never been stopped.
Dr. Tunji Funsho, chair of Rotary’s Nigeria National PolioPlus Committee, acknowledges the milestone but cautions Rotary members about celebrating too soon. He cites the challenge of making certain that routine immunizations reach every child in Nigeria.
“It’s paramount that we ensure all doors are locked to the re-entry of the wild poliovirus into our country,” says Funsho.
Funsho says to achieve this, Rotary needs to maintain strong advocacy efforts, continue to increase awareness of immunization campaigns, and ensure members raise necessary funds. Rotary has contributed $268 million to fight polio in Nigeria.
“As the first organization to dream of a polio-free world, Rotary is committed to fulfilling our promise,” says McGovern. “Our progress in Nigeria is a big step toward that goal, but we need to maintain momentum so that Pakistan and Afghanistan see the same level of progress.”
Rotary's 2019 World Polio Day Global Online Update highlights the frontline workers who make polio eradication possible and the milestones that the program achieved this past year.
It is said that the greatest problem with adolescents is that they are selective listeners … although I personally believe that the problem is not limited to adolescents! We all hear what we want to hear and choose to ignore those things that we don’t want to hear. We pick and choose from the information offered to us, accepting that which pleases us to hear at the moment and ignoring that which we find uncomfortable.
And if that is true for hearing and listening, it is equally true for seeing. We have become selective in what we see, again ignoring those things that make us uncomfortable and seeing only those things that please and satisfy us.
But the problem with such selective seeing is that we can easily miss those things that are critical and important. We would rather frame our reality around those things we see which reinforce our own perceptions and beliefs rather than the sometimes brutal reality which is our world today.
As Rotarians we choose to see those around the world who are dying from diseases because there is no clean water or sanitation; we choose to see those who are displaced children of war or other humanitarian crises; we choose to see those who live without hope because there is no sustainable economic development plan to lift them out of poverty.
We see because the world has chosen to turn a blind eye to these issues, these problems, these crises. But we are Rotarians and we have chosen to open our eyes to the needs of the world and our communities and having seen we cannot turn away.
True sometimes the images are hard to see. But then other images offer themselves for us to see – the parent who cries knowing that those two drops will save her child from polio; the faces of the children when that clear, clean water bubbles up from the earth; and the families who know that we have helped to bring peace and resolution to the conflicts that afflict our world. That is why WE are Rotarians…because TOGETHER we are open and ready to SEE
|Dr. Denis Mukwege is a Congolese physician who cares for women brutalized by sexual violence. His hospital treats an average of 2,000 to 3,000 women each year. In 2018, Mukwege earned the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. In an interview at the Rotary Peace Symposium in Hamburg, Germany, Mukwege described justice as “a way to respect the social contract and to guarantee the moral values in society.” Learn more about his work and how Rotarians in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Belgium are helping his hospital serve patients more effectively through a Rotary Foundation global grant project. Read more|
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