It has been a month or so since my last entry. Sometimes personal reality gets in the way and not everything can get done. I have not lost my enthusiasm for Rotary’s PolioPlus. If anything, I am that much more into helping the Endgame Strategy put together by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). I feel as if I am part of a worldwide team that has the goal of eradication. I see the image of parents of little children no longer needing to be as concerned about their young ones contracting polio.
As recent as 2009, India had 740 cases of polio in that one year. Now we celebrate 3 years of zero cases of polio in India. Where we had 4 endemic countries, countries from where the polio causing virus kept emanating, we are now down to 3 endemic countries worldwide.
Starting in May, 2013, Somalia had a sudden outbreak of polio resulting in 180 new cases. Somalia had been declared polio free in 2007. (Vaccine-wielding health workers face a daunting challenge: accessing areas of Somalia controlled by al-Qaida-linked militants, where 7 of 10 children aren’t fully immunized. Taken from news.Yahoo.com) In November, 2013, Syria had 17 new cases of polio. There had not been a single case of polio in Syria since 1999.
So again, the question gets asked, “What do you mean we are ‘THIS CLOSE’ to eradicating polio from the face of the earth? How can that be if cases appear where polio was not seen in several years.”
Take note that the cases have taken place in areas where there is intense ongoing conflict. People’s lives are being disrupted. There are basically large groups of people being forced to migrate from their homes. The numbers of people displaced and the time they have no permanent roots makes for catastrophes waiting to happen. Sanitary conditions take a back seat when basic survival is the goal. The outbreak of polio is such a catastrophe because the polio virus thrives in unsanitary conditions.
The situation is not a lost cause. The following text is from the GPEI’s Endgame Strategy:
RISK MITIGATION: The plan anticipates and prepares for potential challenges, including insecurity, to enable rapid responses to obstacles and avoid delays.
The plan expects that civil disorder in places around the world will happen. The plan has described the infrastructure required to get “boots on the ground” to regain control. Since the outbreaks of polio described above, there have been health workers in Syria and in Somalia vaccinating children. Since the outbreaks, there have not been any cases in Syria or Somalia. The Endgame Strategy is working.
In my last blog, I said we need to remain vigilant. What I meant was that as Rotarians and non-Rotarians who are not involved with the day to day execution of the Endgame Strategy, we must continue to find ways to help fund the effort. We must find ways to educate people in countries that are polio free and have been that way for quite some time. Without the funds and without the education, people will become complacent. With complacency will come failure of the Endgame Strategy.
With failure of the Endgame Strategy and failure to eradicate polio worldwide will come a return to over 300,000 cases a year worldwide. Think about that. Worldwide…..not some country somewhere you never heard about or to which you will never travel. You and your children do not have to do the travelling. The virus will travel for you and find you…..yes scary and dramatic writing but it can still happen.
We are THIS CLOSE!!!! Let’s continue the effort to finally say, WE MADE IT!!!!!
Please share this blog with whomever……..
PolioPlus Assistant Chair, Rotary District 5170