Health

Rotary Celebrates Historic Victory over Polio in Africa

Rotary District 9211 and Rotary International have commemorated the declaration of Africa as a Polio free region by the World Health Organization (WHO). The declaration came after four years without any case of Polio in the African region.

In a statement released on August 25, 2020 during a press briefing held at Kampala club, Rotary International stated that it was proud to announce a historic health achievement, as Africa was certified by the World Health Organization as being wild poliovirus free.

‘’This is a moment to celebrate because it has taken over 35 years for Rotary and its partners to reach the milestone in the fight against the wild poliovirus which comes as a result very hard work,’’ said Robert Nsibirwa, the past district governor of district 9211 (Uganda and Tanzania).

He also said that about 32000 Rotarians in Africa contributed funds which totaled to around USD 890 million which played a crucial role in fighting Poliovirus in the African region.

‘’35 to 40 years ago, this pandemic paralyzed the communities because many children were affected by the virus that causes polio and many people stopped visiting each other and also stopped taking their children to school,” he added.

He stressed that Rotary International started working with WHO to establish the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) in 1988 which saw many other partners join the fight that saw close to two and half billion children immunized in Africa.

‘’Uganda was declared Polio free by WHO in 1996, and for 14 years Uganda has not registered any case of the wild poliovirus but the work meant that we had to continue doing this over and over,’’ he said.

He further explained that Rotary and Global partners against Polio first joined hands with Former South Africa President, Nelson Mandela in 1996 to mobilize leaders across the continent to commit to reaching every child with the Polio vaccine.

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While reacting to the news that Africa had been declared Polio free, Dr. Tunji Funsho, Chair of Rotary’s Nigeria Polio Plus Committee said that the achievement shows that the global eradication of polio is only possible with collaboration, political and financial support despite the fact that a lot still needs to be done.

Polio (Poliomyelitis) is a highly infectious viral disease that mainly affects children under the age of five. It attacks the nervous system causing paralysis in a matter of hours. Although there is no cure for Polio, it can be prevented by immunization.

A region is eligible for regional certification if it goes three years without any wild polio virus being detected from a country with in that region.

Rotary brings together a global network of voluntary leaders dedicated to tackle the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges.

It has contributed more than USD 2.1 billion to fight polio and countless volunteer hours since launching its polio eradication program, polio plus, in 1985 before establishing the global polio eradication initiative in 1988 following a partnership with WHO, UNICEF, and U.S Centre for Disease control and prevention

The inception of the GPEI initiative came at a time when 350,000 cases of Polio were being recorded every year but today only 0.1% cases of polio are evident.

 

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