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

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

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.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid