Polio Plus

 
Three Rotarians from District 5495 were among Rotarians from around the nation who traveled to Tucson Nov. 20 to compete in the annual Ride to End Polio Fundraiser.
 
The Ride to End Polio is part of the larger El Tour de Tucson bike ride, held every year in Tucson, Arizona.
 
Over the years, the event has raised millions of dollars to support Rotary's efforts to eradicate polio.
 
District Governor Bret McKeand and Rebecca Wilks, both members of Peoria North Rotary Club, took part in the 28-mile race. Bret's wife,  Michelle, joined in the effort.
 
Past District Governor and District 5495 Foundation Committee Chairman Charlie Tegarden also participated -- although not in Tucson. Charlie raised funds via a "virtual" bike ride.
 
All donations to Polio Plus are matched 2-to-1 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Donations raised by the trio, when matched by the Gates Foundation, totaled more than $45,000.
 
The Rotary Club of Sedona and Rascal Restaurant and Bar are taking action on behalf of World Polio Day to raise awareness, funds, and support to end polio, a vaccine-preventable disease that still threatens children in parts of the world today.
 
On Dec. 5, Mercer Mohr, chef/owner of Rascal Restaurant and Bar will donate 10 percent of dinner revenues to Rotary International’s Polio Fund.
 
Rotary and its partners launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988.
 
There were 350,000 cases of polio in 125 countries every year. Today, polio cases have been reduced by 99.9 percent, and just two countries continue to report cases of wild poliovirus: Afghanistan and Pakistan.
 
Rotary clubs are making a special push this year to finish this job. 
 
Please join us and let's end this!
  
Rascal Restaurant & Bar 
 
2250 W State Route 89A, Sedona, AZ 86336
 
Happy Hour 4-5:30 p.m. every day
 
Rotary gives special thanks to Mercer and his team!
 
By Salman Mubarak DGN District 3272
 
Eradicating Polio from the world has been the dream of all Rotarians for more than three decades. With only one case each reported by the only two Polio-endemic countries, Pakistan and Afghanistan, we are very close to the finish line.
 
We as Rotarians need to encourage, motivate and double our efforts so our dream becomes a reality. Most importantly we need to recognize our Polio workers who are covering long distances under tough conditions and defying weather of extreme cold and scorching heat.
 
These are our real heroes working passionately, risking their lives day and night on low salaries of as little as $100 a month so planet earth gets rids of this crippling disease. No amount of donation can compensate them as more than 100 polio workers have been killed. They have sacrificed their lives for a better world for us and for our children.
 
To solidify our resolve a joint meeting was organized by Rotary International Districts 5495 Arizona and 3272 Pakistan which was well attended by Rotarians of both districts including Trustee and National PolioPlus Chair PDG Aziz Memon who graciously agreed to be interviewed.
 
Past RI Trustee and International Steve Brown interviewed Mohamed Ishaq, chair of the Afghanistan National Polio Plus Committee. The idea of a joint meeting was conceived by my District 5495 friends PDG Abe Feder and PDG Barb Feder.
 
 
By Carol Pandak
 
Against the backdrop of an ongoing global pandemic and political upheaval in Afghanistan, we continue to make significant progress in polio eradication, demonstrating the resilience and determination of all those who are working to achieve a polio-free world for children everywhere.
 
Although this year may feel a little different, given current events, on World Polio Day, 24 October, we reflect on the progress we’ve made and the challenges we’ve faced not only over the past year but throughout the history of the PolioPlus program.
 
Celebrating progress
As of 29 September 2021, only two cases of polio caused by wild poliovirus have been reported — one in Afghanistan and one in Pakistan. There has also been a significant reduction in wild poliovirus detected in the environment. Also in decline are cases of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV), which occur when the live, weakened virus used in the oral polio vaccine circulates in under-immunized communities and reverts in strength in a way that can cause paralysis. (The Global Polio Eradication Initiative [GPEI], of which Rotary is a founding partner, introduced a new vaccine to lower the risk of cVDPVs.)
 
There is no doubt that the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic was a period of extreme uncertainty for global polio eradication efforts and for immunization efforts overall. Within a few months, though, the PolioPlus program adapted and learned new ways of working to ensure that polio immunization activities could safely continue. At the same time, those who work in polio eradication used their expertise and the GPEI used its infrastructure to support the response to COVID-19.
 
Overcoming challenges
The situation in Afghanistan presents more uncertainty but also possible opportunities. As a nonpolitical entity, the GPEI has a long history of working with various stakeholders in the country, including government officials and nongovernmental organizations. World Health Organization and UNICEF staff have largely remained in the country. Polio vaccinations continue through permanent transit teams posted in high-traffic areas of most regions, at border crossing sites, and at a Rotary-sponsored transit point in Kunar Province.
 
Rotary’s Afghanistan PolioPlus chair is part of discussions with local authorities to resume immunization campaigns as soon as possible to protect the progress made to date and safeguard children from the poliovirus. 
 
Despite the political changes, there has been no major impact on surveillance to detect the poliovirus. Case investigation, stool sample collection, and environmental testing continue, and sewage and stool specimens are being shipped to a lab in Pakistan.
 
We are also monitoring the potential impact of the situation in Afghanistan on Pakistan, the only other country where polio remains endemic, such as an influx of refugees. The PolioPlus program in Pakistan is building on progress it has made by improving campaign quality and increasing community outreach to immunize children who continually miss polio vaccinations in the highest-risk areas: Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Baluchistan.

 
An optimistic future
On this World Polio Day, we celebrate the progress we’ve made since Rotary launched its PolioPlus program in 1985, and we marvel at the opportunity to eradicate a human disease for only the second time in history. While being realistic about the challenges, the GPEI has a record of operating successfully during complex health and humanitarian emergencies in countries and regions such as Angola, Northern Nigeria, Somalia, and Syria.
 
Let’s be inspired by the unwavering commitment of our organization, our GPEI and government partners, and heroic frontline workers as we continue our work to improve health for children wherever they live.  
 
These numbers show the progress we’ve made against polio over the years:
 
- Nearly 3 billion children have been vaccinated against polio. 
- 19.4 million people who otherwise would have been paralyzed by polio can walk today.
- 1.5 million childhood deaths have been prevented by the GPEI’s delivery of vitamin A — a nutrient that is essential for healthy growth and development — to children during polio immunization campaigns.
- Cases of polio caused by wild poliovirus have been reduced by more than 99.9%.
- The number of countries that report cases of polio caused by the wild virus has been reduced from 125 to two. 
- Rotary has invested more than US$2.2 billion in global polio eradication efforts.
- Rotary has also helped secure an additional $10 billion in donations for global polio eradication efforts from governments.
- 122 countries have received support from PolioPlus grants.
- If polio eradication efforts stopped now, within 10 years, 200,000 children could be paralyzed every year.
 
Carol Pandak has been Rotary’s PolioPlus director for 21 years. During that time, she has traveled to more than 35 countries, but her most memorable moment — one she'll never forget — took place in India, when she immunized a baby against polio for the first time.
 
Rotary Club of Sun Lakes Rotarians' RI PolioPlus 2021 Fundraiser collected $4,130. Stephen Phair, Bill Crump, Elaine Ralls (Ed Anderson accepting) and David Ouradnik won $1,000 donations in his/her name towards RI Paul Harris Awards. Peter Meade of the RCSL Foundation Committee thanked everyone for their kind support, which was double from the 2020 club PolioPlus Fundraiser.
 
Because so many of you have expressed concern about the polio situation in Afghanistan with the takeover of the country by the Taliban, we are publishing this special edition to share an official statement we received yesterday from Mike McGovern, chair of Rotary International's Polio Plus Committee.
 
We thought it important enough to publish now to hopefully allay concerns some folks may be having. The statement follows:
 
As the sun rose on Jan. 1, 2021, we all worried about what this new year would bring. For those of us who closely follow polio eradication progress, it was an especially worrisome.
 
The past two years -- 2020 and 2019 -- had seen an uptick in wild polio virus cases and in circulating vaccine-derived cases.
 
Polio vaccinations had to be suspended for a while in 2020 due to the coronavirus and vaccines for Covid-19 were just starting to receive early use approvals.
The polio news was especially bad in Afghanistan.
 
On the very first day of 2021, a wild polio virus case was reported. In the next week, the national health minister was fired due to hints of corruption on non-polio makers. Before month’s end, the government of Afghanistan ordered the UNICEF polio lead to leave the country relating to a verbal spat that had occurred in the president’s office.
 
Then in March and June there were coordinated attacks on polio workers and their security teams that left eight families having lost loved ones. The Taliban denied responsibility for the attacks, and it appeared the attacks were attributed to elements who supported ISIS or ISIL as they are also known.
 
We also noted that some areas of the country had been subject to over 30 months of a ban on house-to-house polio vaccinations. While all this was going on other activities were occurring which have been mostly unreported.
 
On January 17, the Regional Directors of WHO and UNICEF met at the Taliban office in Doha, Qatar to discuss polio vaccinations and covid response in the areas controlled by the Taliban. While house to house polio vaccinations were not agreed to, the seven senior members of Taliban leadership indicated support for other measures to provide vaccination activities.
 
In all areas of the country, health screenings continued unabated, which showed no new wild polio cases and no positive identification of polio viruses in the environment. In a zoom call of polio partnership leaders the week of August 17, Aidan O’Leary, the global WHO polio director, noted that Afghanistan has one of the best programs for polio surveillance in the world and it was not finding polio anywhere.
 
After the fall of the Afghanistan government in mid-August, the new leadership has agreed to keep on the acting health minister who has been effective in righting the program since February. Taliban leaders have visited the national and regional polio offices and pledged their support for the polio eradication program.
 
On August 23, a Rotary-sponsored roadside vaccination hut provided vaccinations to children under five with local Taliban providing the needed security. For security reasons, I will not share the photos I received but it was good to see the Rotary logo doing good in the world.
 
Rotary has just 35 members in Afghanistan. They inspire me daily with their courage and perseverance. The polio program has always been politically neutral in every country. Rotary and our partners work with the leaders who are in charge. We now work with new leaders in Afghanistan.
 
Rotary funds WHO and UNICEF. We do not send any funds to the governments nor to groups other than WHO and UNICEF. We monitor the spending they do on our behalf very closely.
 
We have never been closer to eradicating polio in Afghanistan. We will continue to work with the Afghani people and our partners to finish what we began over 35 years ago.
 
 
 
 
District Governor Bret has indicated his desire to continue The PolioPlus Society Initiative.  For a pledge to donate $100 per year to End Polio Now, you too can become a member of the PolioPlus Society. If interested, please visit the Foundation portion of the District website (CLICK HERE) and maneuver to the PolioPlus Society section of the page. Use the pop-out button in order to print the various pages. District Foundation Chair Charlie Teagarden would like to see a couple hundred District 5495 members sign up for the PolioPlus Society! Unfortunately, during the Rotary year just ended, the participation in the PolioPlus Society was not what was hoped for and our District is lagging our sister Arizona District in both participation and amount pledged.
 
Watch an EXCELLENT video on Iron Will and The Iron Lung HERE
 
Most people today probably don’t know what this is:
 

And that’s a good thing because it shows how much progress the world has made against polio, a terrible and now largely forgotten disease. 

This metal tank is an iron lung, a mechanical respirator that saved the lives of thousands of polio victims. 

Polio attacks the body’s nervous system, crippling patients. In the worst cases, the disease paralyzes their respiratory muscles and makes it difficult for them to breathe, sometimes resulting in death.  

Using changes in air pressure, the iron lung pulls air in and out of a patient’s lungs, allowing them to breathe and stay alive. 

During the height of the polio epidemic in the U.S. in the 1940s and 1950s, rows of iron lungs filled hospital wards to treat thousands of polio patients, most of them children.

Funding to be used to vaccinate more than 16 million children in 84 highest risk districts 

The funding will be used to vaccinate approximately 16 million children in 84 highest-risk districts. © UAE

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) on July 24 announced an additional US$9.5 million support to the Pakistan Polio Eradication Initiative (PEI). The funding will be used to vaccinate approximately 16 million children during door-to-door immunization campaigns in 84 highest-risk districts as well as an additional US$376,000 to provide personal protective equipment against COVID-19 for the frontline campaign workers.

The funding, which will be utilized from July to December, brings to more than US$23 million made available by the UAE in 2021. The Emirates, a long-time supporter of Pakistan’s polio programme and its main funder, has provided over US$200 million in financial support since 2014. Pakistan is one of two countries where wild poliovirus remains endemic.

Speaking on behalf of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, Dr Palitha Mahipala, the World Health Organization Representative in Pakistan, thanked the UAE for its generous contribution, noting the UAE’s steadfast commitment not only to protecting children from lifelong paralysis but to the overall goal of polio eradication.

“The UAE has firmly stood by the polio programme with vital yearly contributions and in pleas for extra funding to address unforeseen challenges such as COVID-19,” he said. “This would not be possible without their support.”