Polio National Immunisation Days in India In the mid 1980’s when over 350,000 children died annually from poliomyelitis, up stepped Rotary International, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization, the USA Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with a goal to eradicate Polio. For the calendar year to 9 August 2017 there has been only 8 reported cases compared with 37 in 2016.
Whilst we have come along way there is more to be done to reach that illusive ZERO. On five occasions over four years, Rotary volunteers from Sandringham, including our 2017/18 President and his wife, and others have travelled to Moradabad, in the Uttar Pradesh District of India, about 163 kilometres east of New Delhi to deliver the two precious Sabin ‘drops’ as part of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative to complete the eradication and containment of all wild, vaccine-related and Sabin polio viruses, such that no child ever again suffers paralytic poliomyelitis.
Each year we would learn that our team, which on average comprised seven, Rotarians and partners, would be part of millions of volunteers throughout India who on the one nominated day, which in 2017 was 29th January, would commence the Immunisation of in excess of 170 million children, from childbirth to 5 years old.
In Moradabad it was reported that 500,000 children would be immunised. Our team members are allocated to booths set up along the road side, at the train station or bus terminal to work with local Rotarians and representatives of the World Health Organisation to deliver the two drops. Children would be literally ‘ambushed’ by local volunteers at the booth, directed over to the vaccinators by literally standing in the middle of the road to stop any vehicle in which there appeared to be a child under five years. If you have ever seen videos of the traffic in India you can imagine the horrific risk this entails.
In the days following the roadside delivery of the precious drops we would join our polio partners in door-to-door vaccination to ensure that all children in the Moradabad District, an area with a population about the same as Greater Melbourne, are vaccinated. This door to door activity would continue as necessary to ensure that each child will receive the two drops.
What has started as an involvement in the “national immunisation days” has led to many other projects to assist the people of Moradabad. With the help of Rotarians and friends of Districts 9810 and 9820 we have provided toilets and fresh water pumps in slum villages and rural schools, mobile health services delivering medical camps throughout the rural villages, Library and e-learning centres for primary schools and shoes and socks to children of an orphanage. We have also included “Days for Girls” feminine hygiene programs for the teenage girls.
These are only a few of the many opportunities to be part of Rotary: Making A Difference.