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

Photogallery US Nurse ‘Cured of Ebola,’ NIH Says

update Nina Pham, Texas nurse who treated first Ebola patient in US, received no experimental drugs; WHO expects vaccine surge in 2015 More

Video Islamic State Militants Encroach on Baghdad

update Iraqi capital not under ‘imminent threat,’ US military says, amid worries about foothold More

Video Hong Kong Protesters Focus on Holding Volatile Mong Kok

Activists say holding Mong Kok is key to their movement's success, despite confrontations with angry residents and police 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.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid