Pakistan hopes to be polio-free by year-end

Pakistan has not reported any new polio cases in 320 days of the year and “we are keeping our fingers crossed for the next 45 days. RI President Shekhar Mehta has assured us that he will declare the country polio-free if there are no cases for the entire year,” said TRF Trustee Aziz Memon from RID 3271, ­Pakistan, representing Foundation chair John Germ at the Mahabs Institute. “But surveillance is critical to prevent the resurfacing of wild poliovirus after a short time. Though ­Nigeria was declared polio-free, the cases cropped up after a gap of 18 months.”

TRF Trustee and Pakistan National PolioPlus Committee Chair Aziz Memon
TRF Trustee and Pakistan National PolioPlus Committee Chair Aziz Memon

Addressing the TRF seminar he said, “we have to be on our toes as our neighbour Afghanistan, with whom we share a 2,400km porous border, has recorded two cases so far and our Waziristan province is vulnerable to polio infections from across the border, as people with families on both sides of the border exchange frequent visits.”

The Pakistan government is taking extra care to check if people across the Afghan border are immunised against polio before letting them in, he said. “While OPV (oral polio vaccine) is given two times, IPV (inactivated polio vaccine) is given once at birth. Till the virus is wiped out from the environment and water samples, we have to continue with our vaccination efforts.”

Memon recalled his recent meeting with Pakistan PM Imran Khan who chairs the National Task Force on Polio Eradication and said he is in touch with all the four CMs of the provinces to ensure focus on the ­PolioPlus programmes.

Afghanistan woes

During his interaction with ­Afghanistan health minister Dr ­Qalandar Ebad, he learnt that there was no shortage of vaccine in that country, “but the logistics are inadequate as hospitals and dispensaries are closed. And there are no nurses or doctors to provide medical services.” Memon said the world has to help Afghanistan to tide over its healthcare crisis first, if it wants to get rid of polio completely.

When Covid struck without any warning about its scale and magnitude, “the Rotary Foundation was prepared for the challenge. It gave Covid grants of $46 million for clubs across the world to fight the pandemic; the cold chain facilities for polio were diverted to fight Covid; Rotarians distributed food packets and grocery bags; and we reached out to daily wage earners who lost their livelihood.”

TRF in 2020–21 TRF in 2020–21 l

District grants — 467; funding $31.1 millionl

Disaster response grants — 55; funding $3.1 millionl

Global grants — 2,066; funding $143 millionl

The Foundation has raised and invested over $5.5 billion for projects and community programmes around the world.

An endowment purse of $2.025 billion will be created by 2025 which will enable Rotary to take up grander projects in scale and impact.

As against the target of $410 million, TRF collected $441 million in 2020–21, thanks to India’s contribution of $23 million. “The current year target ($410 million) will also be crossed as India will achieve its goal of $30 million,” he said. DDFs are being depleted at a fast pace with great demand for global grants, hence Rotarians and clubs must donate liberally to the Annual Fund, he urged. With a grand vision of building an Endowment purse of $2.025 billion by 2025, Rotarians have to donate more so that TRF can reach out to do more good in the world, he added.

Before joining Rotary, recalled RI director A S Venkatesh, he was paying the school fees of poor girls and ­children. “But after I became a Rotarian, I started thinking of building a school or classroom, and even setting up a clinic or opening a hospital. Because of the Foundation, we are able to enhance our vision of doing good. We have to take pride in what TRF, the charity arm of Rotary, does in making the world a better place to live in,” he said.

RRFC John Daniel, zone 5, said Rotarians are global citizens and the Foundation is their ­all-religion temple. He cited the Bhagwad Gita, Quran and Bible to point out, “god is within each one of us. As ­Rotarians we transform the prayers into action. The world needs Rotary now more than ever as the sick and poor are waiting for us to wipe their tears.” Rotarians need to give liberally to TRF to strengthen the Foundation on which Rotary will grow stronger, taller as the largest service organisation in the world, he said.

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