Bowling out Polio In a cricket-crazy country like Pakistan, where polio workers are constantly being shot dead, Pakistani Rotarians are making use of cricket and other sports to spread awareness of preventing polio.

By December 4, 2014, Pakistan had reported a total of 291 polio cases of the total 342 polio victims globally. With the extent of misinformation that surrounds polio vaccines, the eradication of polio is crucial to Pakistan’s wellbeing. The country is rife with rumours about the vaccine — it will make children sterile; it contains AIDS virus and the vaccinators are essentially CIA agents.  But despite such odds, Rotary in Pakistan, along with the GPEI partners, are ramping up efforts to provide children under five their basic right to health and dignity.

Rotary Club of Rawalpindi, D3272, chartered in 1953, is perhaps one of the oldest in Pakistan. The members, currently numbering 38, are also constantly coming up with new ideas to create awareness among the people and motivate them to immunise their children against the deadly virus. The recently organised End Polio Now Cricket Tournament is an effort in that direction. The game was played between RC Rawalpindi XI and the mechanical tool manufacturing company, SMT Olympia XI at ARL Grounds, Morgah. Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI) President Syed Asad Mashadi was the chief guest. The match was a big draw with thousands of cricket enthusiasts coming to cheer the players. Members of the Executive Committee of RCCI and civil society representatives were also present.

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Winners of the tournament hold aloft the trophy.

Street plays, competitions for school/college students, cricket/football/rugby matches, swimming competitions and workshops for religious leaders are few other endeavours of the club in its battle against polio, says Nosherwan Khalil Khan, ­Pakistan National PolioPlus Committee member and Chair of the club’s PolioPlus Committee. Polio Awareness Workshop organised in collaboration with Commnet UNICEF spread the message to bus drivers, technicians, ticketing staff and bus cleaners, about the vital role of the two drops of polio vaccine that protects children from the crippling disease. Furthermore, polio vaccine coolers and the yellow vests, advocacy materials and banners are donated regularly by the Rotarians to the District Health Administration, Rawalpindi, for use during the NIDs.

Rawalpindi, being a gateway to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), is a high-risk district due to heavy influx of unvaccinated children from KPK where resistance to polio drops is high. Hence, Rotarians make sure that the polio surveillance is strong in this region and PNPPC has set up a Permanent Transitory Point in Rawalpindi. The district has not reported a single case of polio since 2011. Around 7,60,000 children from a total 192 Union Councils are targeted every year with participation from the District Government.

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Painting competition to create awareness about polio eradication.

Besides these efforts, the Rotarians organise health camps in rural areas periodically and also facilitate cataract surgeries for the poor and needy. The club runs a school in ­Tarnol area that provides education and vocational courses for the underprivileged. To provide safe drinking water, water purification systems have been installed in government schools by the club in association with Rotary Club of Quilon WestEnd, RI District 3211, India. The club along with Inner Wheel Club of Rawalpindi and Association for Special Children provide various services for the smooth functioning of Darakshan, a resource and training centre for women with disability.

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RI Director Bharat Pandya is Treasurer for Rotary International for 2020-21, when Holgar Knaack will be RI President, JohritaSolari will be the Vice President and Stephanie Urchick, the Executive Committee Chair.