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

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine 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.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid