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Eradicating Polio – Reminiscing on a Memorable Trip

We had a full house for our speaker meeting this week, with Rotarians Maggie Hardy, Sue Whitton and former Swanage (now Boscombe & Southbourne) Rotarian Ron Emmitt talking about a National Immunisation Day that they were involved with during a trip to Delhi in India in February 2010.

The talk had a serious side, of course, as the visit was part of the ongoing effort to eradicate Polio from the world. It is thought that the disease goes back hundreds of years to at least 1580AD (according to an Egyptian carving that was discovered). Many people still alive today will know people who contracted Polio in this country in the 1950s and 60s, although thankfully it is no longer something to be feared in the UK thanks to mass immunisation.

Only three areas now have the uncontrolled virus – Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. Hundreds of millions of children around the world have been immunised thanks to Rotary. By 2017, Polio cases had been reduced by 99.9%. But we’re not there yet. The virus is only a plane ride away and until it has been completely eradicated the effort must continue.

Maggie, Sue and Ron then spoke more about their visit to India, which was self-funded. The first impressions were what a country of contrast India is, with luxurious hotels sitting alongside very basic living accommodation.

Following that, however, they got down to business, visiting a local hospital and meeting local people involved in the immunisation programme. The operation is huge with hundreds of ‘booths’ ready to accept people coming to be vaccinated. The conditions in which some of the healthcare was being delivered was something of an eye-opener. But the children came across as so happy to have their photos taken and, in the main, extremely keen to have the vaccination administered.

Our three speakers had many wonderful stories of their experiences, good and bad, on the trip and the people that they met. And there was also time for some sightseeing and a visit to a local Rotary club who made them feel extremely welcome.

But there are dangers involved in trying to administer the vaccine. People have been killed in some of the more volatile areas such as the Pakistan / Afghanistan border, so absolutely ridding the world of the virus remains challenging for those reasons too.

On behalf of the club, Rotarian David Chalcraft thanked all three speakers for an really informative and entertaining talk.