Plea to Indian Rotarians to support the last mile in polio

TRF chair representative and trustee Jorge Aufranc recognises RID 3141 IPDG Rajendra Agarwal in the presence of (from L) RIDE T N Subramanian, TRF trustee Bharat Pandya and past trustee Gulam Vahanvaty.
TRF chair representative and trustee Jorge Aufranc recognises RID 3141 IPDG Rajendra Agarwal in the presence of (from L) RIDE T N Subramanian, TRF trustee Bharat Pandya and past trustee Gulam Vahanvaty.

Enumerating the sheer reach and scope of the work done by The Rotary Foundation, TRF trustee Jorge Aufranc, representing trustee chair Ian Riseley at the Vizag zone institute, congratulated the Rotarians of India for the “fantastic work” they had done in eradicating polio from India.

Spelling out at the TRF seminar the latest strategy of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), of which Rotary is a founding member, he said this “new strategic plan for 2022–26 has two goals — ­interrupting the transmission of all polioviruses in Afghanistan and ­Pakistan; and stopping the transmission of circulating vaccine-­derived poliovirus type 2 outside the endemic countries.”

This strategy required Rotarians to reach about 400 million ­children a year, which requires hundreds of thousands of frontline workers going door-to-door. In addition, disease surveillance activities must intensify by looking for the virus in children and the environment. For a polio-free world three things were required — fundraising, advocacy and raising awareness through engagement of club members. “You did a wonderful job to eradicate polio in this country of 1,400 million people. Now, on behalf of the board of trustees, I encourage you to support the last mile. Our fundraising goal for PolioPlus this year is $35 million in new outright contributions, alongside another $15 million in district designated funds and world fund,” he said.

The rate of return for Indian Rotarians’ contributions to TRF is 20 per cent of TRF grants coming to India

This would bring in $50 million, to be matched 2:1, or $100 million, from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Unfortunately, today, only one in 10 Rotarians donated to the End Polio Now campaign, and this had to improve, to each member donating at least $100 a year, said Aufranc.

Striking a warning note, the trustee said that the recent detection of polio this year in till-now polio-free countries “is a stark reminder that if we do not deliver our goal of ending polio everywhere, it may resurge globally.”

He congratulated India for bagging “an honorable second place” in the annual goals of TRF, and urged the Rotary leaders at the institute to motivate more Rotarians to become PHF members by donating $1,000 every year. India had also made “big achievements” in getting big CSR funds, he said.

“It is not about the money. It’s about what the money can do through the grant programmes,” said Aufranc. And Indian Rotarians would be happy to know about the RoI (return on investment) on their contributions. About “20 per cent of the grants in the Rotary world are awarded to India.”

TRF has received a pledge of a $15.5 million donation from the Otto & Fran Walter Foundation for a new peace centre

The Rotary leadership had also decided that “for our projects to have real impact, we need to identify the needs of the community and do large, impactful projects.” Rotarians would do well to remember that it is not “‘what we want’ or ‘our project’. It is the community’s project that we are doing.” And always remember to make alliances, either with the local government or an NGO, “because that will guarantee sustainability and success once the Rotarians leave,” he advised.

Believing in the real impact of big projects TRF had introduced Programs of Scale, where it provided an award of $2 million; the first such programme was for a Malaria-free Zambia, and the second was for creating “Healthy Families in Nigeria, to reduce maternal and infant mortality rates,” he added.

Later, addressing a session at the institute, Aufranc recalled his visit, along with wife Debora, for a polio NID in Moradabad in 2009. “On January 13, 2011, India had the last case of polio, a 3-year-old girl, Rukhsar Khatun. This week, I had the opportunity to give drops of the polio vaccine in Karachi, Pakistan. I am fully confident that in one year from now, we’ll see Pakistan polio-free.”

On Rotary’s peace programmes, the trustee said that TRF had enough credibility to be recognised as a “peace icon in the world” and had recently received a pledge of a $15.5 million donation from the Otto & Fran Walter Foundation to fund a new Rotary Peace Center in the Middle East-North African region.

TRF opened its disaster relief fund for donations and raised more than $15 million for Ukraine

In his own country, Guatemala, known for its large indigenous population where many lived in poverty, with lack of clean water, poor access to healthcare and one in two children ­suffering from malnutrition, TRF projects in healthcare, water and sanitation, MHM and nutrition, had rendered great help.

Urging Rotarians to donate generously to TRF, Aufranc said their generosity assured that “when hurricanes hit, Rotary is there, when we were fighting against the pandemic across the globe, Rotary was there, when war and a humanitarian crisis unfolded in Ukraine, we opened our disaster relief fund for donations and raised more than $15 million. We put our humanitarian networks and resources to work, providing help, food, shelter, and other necessities to the millions of displaced people who continue to seek refuge.”

Addressing the TRF seminar, former trustee from India, Gulam Vahanvaty said Rotary’s endowment funds ensure that Rotarians make a powerful difference in the world.

Trustee Bharat Pandya explained the intricacies of how TRF funds are invested by experts, with great care, different strategies and varying risk parameters, to meet the different goals of different funds.

Institute convener and RI director Mahesh Kotbagi explained how our four zones had transitioned from “takers” to “givers” when it came to TRF donations. Awards were distributed to various districts for the highest contributions to TRF.


Picture by Rasheeda Bhagat

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