Friday, 4 November 2011

We are "This Close" to ending Polio

Ending Polio

Many people of a certain age will remember all too vividly the impact that Poliomyelitis had on friends and family members.  As a reminder Poliomyelitis or polio is an acute viral infectious disease.  It is spread through overcrowded, unclean conditions, and improper sanitation of waste fluids. During the early 20th century polio devastated many populations around the world.  Until the mid 1950’s there was no readily available vaccine against this crippling disease.  It took several years for it to be eradicated from the industrial world.  Indeed there were significant outbreaks recorded in Coventry & Hull in 1957 & 1960.  In 1963 the oral vaccine was developed and polio is now rare in first world countries.   It was however only finally eradicated from the whole of Europe in 2002.

It took longer for polio to be recognised as a severe problem in developing countries.  However, "lameness surveys" during the 1970s revealed that the disease was frequent, crippling thousands of children every year. Routine immunisation was introduced worldwide, helping to control the disease.

In 1985 Rotarians decided that the eradication Polio would be a task they would take on for the people of the world.  Smallpox had been eradicated in the early 60’s so why not Polio.

Rotary has led the private sector in the global effort to rid the world of this crippling disease. Today, PolioPlus and its role in the initiative is recognized worldwide as a model of public-private cooperation in pursuit of a humanitarian goal.   As part of this PolioPlus initiative Rotarians, including those in the Carlisle area, regularly take part in National Immunisation Days, mainly in India but also in Pakistan and parts of Africa.  Working with local Rotarians they help ensure that every child of 5 years or younger receives the Polio Vaccine twice a year.  In a city of 8m people like Bangalore which a team from our area visited in 2010, this is an immense logistical task and it was a privilege for us to take part.

In addition to providing financial and volunteer support, Rotary works to urge support from other public and private sector partners. This includes the campaign to End Polio Now, inspired by the extraordinary challenge grants received from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.   They have provided some $300m over recent years provided that Rotarians provided a further $200m.  We have $190m collected already and have until June 2012 to collect the rest – and we will.

When Rotary launched its push to end polio in the 1980s, the wild poliovirus crippled nearly 1,000 people every day. Since then, Rotary and its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative have reduced the incidence of polio by 99-percent. And the push continues: This year, India has the lowest number of polio cases in history. We are “this close” to ending polio once and for all.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Peace the World Over

“Peace the World Over”

In 1940 the world was at war. Paul Harris, founder of Rotary wrote in The Rotarian magazine that February: ‘Must the best genius of men be devoted to the science of war and none to the science of averting it?’

The Second World War began to clarify views within our organisation that we could and should strive to make our world a far more peaceful place. After the war, The United Nations were formed. Around 100 Rotarians were deeply and fundamentally involved at senior levels in the formation of the most famous of all Organisations for Peace. Many people, even Rotarians don’t realise that Rotary has such an incredible history of ground breaking work in this field.

The Rotary Foundation is our charity. Its vision is-

“Enabling Rotarians to Advance World Understanding, Goodwill and Peace.”

It has three key elements to its mission:

·         Improving Health

·         Supporting Education &

·         Alleviating poverty.

Those of you up to date with current accepted theories on Global Security will know that these also happen to be (if you now add Global Warming), the key issues we need to address if we our World has any chance of remaining a peaceful one.

So the ultimate aim of our charity is the promotion of World Peace. You can’t get a more ambitious goal than that.

In 1999 Rotary decided to set up the Rotary Centres for Peace and Conflict Resolution around the world.  Rotary Peace Fellows attending these centres are leaders promoting national and international cooperation, peace, and the successful resolution of conflict throughout their lives, in their careers, and through service activities.

Each year, up to 100 Rotary Peace Fellowships are offered on a competitive basis at six Rotary Peace Centres, which operate in partnership with seven leading universities across the world.  The fellows are chosen from countries and cultures around the globe based on their potential as leaders in government, business, education, media, and other professional areas.

Rotarians in the UK are proud that one of these centres is the Peace Studies faculty at Bradford University.  At a recent Conference fellows gave us an insight into their work and interests.  These included insights into Land Conflicts in Cambodia; Humanitarian responses to the Somali refugee crisis; Civil Conflict, Peace Building and Reconciliation, experience from Sierra Leone; Conflict Minerals. 

The breadth of work undertaken by these dedicated individuals always astounds and impresses.   It also makes you think “What is Peace?”  At an international Peace Conference in 2009 I noted the following from Prof Paul Rogers  Peace with work to do in an ever more Crowded, Glowering World