In 2015, 193 world leaders agreed to 17 ambitious goals — the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN — to end poverty, fight ine- quality and stop climate change by 2030. The pandemic has set back community economic development in most parts of the world by years, if not decades. Covid-19 has only reinforced the fact that for the goals to be met, everyone — the governments, private sector, civil society and general public — need to do their part: This crisis has thrust millions into poverty. Food insecurity has increased. Children are more vulnerable because in many parts routine immunisation has declined or stopped and they have less or no access to healthcare to fight diseases like diarrhoea, pneumonia etc. Rotary has a role to play in many of these areas.

Things will not get better till we have the pandemic under control. Vaccine is one of the ways to do it. But vaccines have to be equitably distributed without consideration of rich / poor; developed / developing. This is the challenge. And it is here that Rotary can play a part with advocacy efforts with governments, Gates Foundation and pharma companies to ensure equitable distribution of vaccine. This will be a very good way to focus on community economic development in the coming months.

October 24 is World Polio Day. Polio — the word strikes fear in the hearts of parents because it affects our most vulnerable and defenceless population, children under five. The polio story is the story of a dream. A dream that Rotary showed to the world when in 1982 the RI board pledged to immunise the world’s children. And it is the story of the four Cs — commitment of Rotary and Rotarians to eradicate polio; collaboration which is our success in forging partnerships. No single entity could have done it, but together we are so close. The third is consistency — consistent, dedicated efforts of Rotarians, their families and friends; followed by contribution — generous, large-hearted contribution of Rotarians and friends of Rotary, that has made this miracle possible.

As Africa is declared polio-free we need to move ahead and bring this story to its conclusion. A polio-free world will be the best legacy we can leave for future generation.

Emerson once eloquently said, “Without the rich heart, wealth is ugly.” Richness is not about money or possessions; it’s a state of the mind. It’s not how much we have that counts but what we do with what we have that matters. As Rotary opens new opportunities of service, let us use the richness of our hearts to support the polio fund.

Dr Bharat Pandya,
RI Director, 2019-21

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