News / Health

    Renewed Effort Underway to Eradicate Polio

    A child being vaccinated against polio
    A child being vaccinated against polio

    Multimedia

    Derek Henkle

    A new effort is underway to vaccinate people in the four countries where  polio outbreaks still occur. If this effort is successful, polio could be eradicated worldwide.   Derek Henkle met the 88-year-old Australian man behind the program, which is credited with preventing millions of disabilities and saving countless lives.

    As a boy growing up in Pakistan, Zak Ahmad dreamed of coaching a football team.  At the age of 21, he moved to Australia to pursue that dream. But one week after arriving, his life suddenly changed.

    "My both legs, they were not able to move," said Zak Ahmad. "So doctors, they just said that it would be a miracle if you come out of it, because in medical science they don't have any cure for this disease."

    Ahmad had contracted polio, a disease that paralyzes - and sometimes kills - its victims.

    "I thought that my dreams were over now," he said. "I can't do anything in my whole life. And I was really much shocked."

    Ahmad's experience is not unique. Hundreds of thousands of people used to get polio, a virus that spreads as easily as the common cold.



    Polio is no longer a concern in Western countries because of mass inoculations starting in the 1950s.

    But children in developing nations lived under the constant risk of infection until more recently, when an international service club took aim at eliminating the disease.

    It's here in the small Australian town of Nambour that the battle to eradicate polio began. It was one man's vision that if just two drops, from a bottle like this one, could prevent children from getting the disease, that global eradication could be within reach.  Now, 20 years on, they say they're three years away from realizing that vision."

    "I picked up a Reader's Digest, and there I read that for $100 million the World Health Organization had eradicated small pox," said Sir Clem Renouf. "And this fired my imagination. I thought, 'My gosh, we could do something like that.'"

    Sir Clem Renouf, then president of Rotary International, convinced Rotarians across the globe to unite against the disease by raising money to fight the virus and by volunteering their time toward that effort.

    "Suddenly, we realized that we had the capacity, and the encouragement, as Rotary clubs to do major projects, then the eradication of polio was no longer an impossible dream," he said.

    Rotary International pledged to raise 120 million U.S. dollars to pay for immunizing children against the disease. Rotarians have since raised more than $900 million to end polio.

    Rotary is now a partner with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for a renewed effort to eradicate polio.
    The W.H.O. says since 1988, more than two billion children around the world have been immunized against polio.

    The campaign is focusing on Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Nigeria - the four countries where the disease remains.

    Jenny Horton helps coordinate Rotary's efforts in those countries.

    "We have teams of people just going door-to-door ensuring that every child under five is vaccinated with drops," said Jenny Horton. "So it's a huge program, but the effects of that program are just enormous in preventing disability."

    For Zak Ahmad, just one week after getting polio, his immune system began to fight the virus. He credits the oral polio vaccine he received as a child for giving him a new lease on life.

    "In the morning I wake up, I was sleeping, and I just turn around and my body was just moving normally," he said.

    The end of polio may be within reach.  When the campaign first started, the World Health Organization says the disease paralyzed more than 1,000 children every day. So far this year, only 561 cases have been reported.

    "We will keep going 'til the end," she said. "We are there; we don't want any more children disabled.  It's really, really important that every time we reach every child with polio drops."

    Tiny drops, which are now bringing big hopes of eliminating the second disease ever from the globe.

    You May Like

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Annual festival showcases the region's harvested agriculture, fine wines and offers opportunities to experience the gentle breeze in a hot air balloon flight

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora