At the end of January, Bahamian Rotarians travelled to India to participate in polio National Immunization Day (NID), in the drive of Rotary International to rid the world of the polio virus. In the 1940s and 1950s approximately half a million people worldwide either died or were paralyzed after contracting wild poliovirus. While many Bahamians have heard of it and some may have family members that were even affected by it, the country has been polio free for decades.
Worldwide, the combined efforts of approximately 1.2 million Rotarians, together with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Health Organisation and others, has resulted in the almost complete eradication of polio. In 30 years, the 350,000 annual cases of polio across 125 countries, has been reduced to 29 cases in three countries (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria) in 2018. So far in 2019, there have been no new reported cases. However, to be officially declared eradicated, there must be no new cases of polio for three years.
“In Rotary we say ‘we’re this close’,” said Adrian White, a member of the Rotary Club of East Nassau (RCEN), while putting his thumb and forefinger together, a gesture all Rotarians use to indicate the fight to end polio is nearly finished.
Adrian White and his wife Mirlande left Nassau on Saturday, January 28, 2019 for New Delhi, India. As guests of Rotarian host Ajay Thakur in India, and Dr. Nichal Panday, the couple will learn the history of polio while visiting the World Health Organization, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the Polio Plus Office, and viewing the medical advancements directed at those affected by polio in a visit to Stephen’s Hospital. They will then distribute polio vaccinations to children in communities where immunization efforts are ongoing.
Work to keep the world polio free, is not centered in only India, Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan. Efforts continue everywhere, including The Bahamas. In 2018, when RCEN past president, Diane de Cardenas and her husband Fernando, also a Rotarian, welcomed their son George Thomas into the world they posted photos of him on social media getting his first polio vaccination, promoting Rotary International’s efforts to make the world polio free.
Through a non-intrusive process, the polio vaccination is administered with two small drops taken orally. More than $1.7 billion has been raised and donated toward the battle to eradicate this debilitating disease and those funds have allowed billions of vaccinations to be distributed throughout the world.
This year’s Rotary International president, Bahamian Barry Rassin, has charged Rotarians “to be the inspiration”, a slogan that all Bahamian Rotarians like Adrian and Diane want to live by. There are nine clubs located across New Providence, Grand Bahama, Abaco and Eleuthera, which would welcome any Bahamians wanting to join the organization who want to give back to their community in service above self.
You can follow the Whites’ travels throughout India on the Rotary Club of East Nassau’s Facebook and Instagram social media sites for more updates.