Stay focused – Kick Polio Out of Africa …

February 26, 2011

Iconic landmarks around the world served as the backdrop for the End Polio Now message the week of 23 February in honor of Rotary’s 106th anniversary. They included the Trevi Fountain in Rome; a Lantern Festival gate in Taiwan; the parliament building in The Hague; the globe of the SM Mall of Asia in Manila, Philippines; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation headquarters in Seattle, Washington, USA; Byblos Castle in Byblos, Lebanon; and the soccer stadium in Cape Town, South Africa, among others – photographed below. 

Each of these iconic landmarks provided a dramatic backdrop for an equally dramatic message: End Polio Now. Those three words – representing Rotary’s pledge to rid the world of this crippling childhood disease – were projected onto each structure during the week surrounding 23 February 2011, the humanitarian service organization’s 106th anniversary.

These monuments join the other iconic landmarks that have carried the pledge in recent years: the Sydney Opera House, London’s Tower Bridge, the Roman Coliseum, Egypt’s Pyramid of Khafre, Chicago’s Wrigley Building, the Obelisk in Argentina, and the San Francisco Ferry Building.

The End Polio Now illumination in India is particularly symbolic because 2011 is expected to be a key year in the fight to stop the disease in that country—one of only four nations where transmission of the wild poliovirus has never been stopped. Last year, India experienced a record low number of polio cases—reporting just 42. The other remaining polio-endemic countries are Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.

In Africa, too, giant strides are being made to eradicate polio.

Great progress has been made, and the incidence of polio infection has plunged from about 350,000 cases in 1988 to fewer than 1,000 cases in 2010. More than two billion children have been immunized in 122 countries, preventing five million cases of paralysis and 250,000 paediatric deaths.

The end is in sight. Failure is not an option. Let’s stay focused to Kick Polio Out of Africa –  to rid the continent of this devastating disease and fulfil our promise to the children of Africa.


World Polio Day media blitz in Benin!

October 24, 2010

Rotarians in Benin organised a massive media blitz in the run up to and on World Polio Day today, organising a feast of activities – from radio interviews on OCEAN FM on Polio and the implications of Rotarians in this fight to the End by the NPPC Chair Ashok Mirchandini -to Past President, Prof Hypolete Agboton (a member of the National Eradication Experts Committee), doing an animated hour-long phone-in show on CAPP FM. Chair Ashok also did a 52 minute show on LC2 TV on all aspects of polio eradication. This was followed by a 15 minute interview on National TV ORTB, with Zenabs THIS CLOSE AD serving as a backdrop.

Newspaper THIS CLOSE ads and interviews with Chair Ashok in dailies completed the well-organised media blitz spearheaded by Rotary Public Image coordinator for Zone 20A –  Boris Crestia.

Ashok Mirchandani, who is also the Zone Challenge Coordinator,  got Rotarians to double their TRF recognition points by contributing to the Polio Fund during the week leading from 18-24 October. “This will add to the Polio Gates Challenge. If online contributions were not mandatory, the contributions would have been much greater, but we hope they will come up with a double the points scheme for Africa to enable us to Kick Polio Out of Africa”.

The next NID rounds in Benin have been pushed forward three weeks to 19 -21 November. The West African state of Benin this week,  has been hit by the worst floods in living memory. Two-thirds of the country is affected by the flooding, with around 700,000 people having lost their homes. This could impact negatively on polio eradication efforts.

The KPOA team send their condolences to the people of Benin in their tragic loss and are with them in spirit at this sad and difficult time.

Rotary’s final push to ‘End Polio Now’ and ‘Kick Polio Out of Africa’ …

October 24, 2010

EVANSTON,  Ill., USA) (Oct. 24, 2010) – In recognition of World Polio Day, Rotary clubs are participating in a global push to raise the funds and awareness needed to vanquish  this crippling disease, now on the verge of eradication.

This year, significant progress has been made against polio in the remaining four polio-endemic countries, particularly in Nigeria and India. Nigeria, until recently the global epicenter of polio, has reported only eight cases in 2010, a dramatic reduction from the 2009 total. India has also seen major progress, with an 80-percent reduction in polio cases since last year.

Since 1985, eradicating polio worldwide has been Rotary’s top philanthropic goal. Rotary has contributed more than US$900 million and countless volunteer hours to protect more than two billion children in 122 countries. In addition to India and Nigeria, the disease remains endemic — meaning spread of the wild poliovirus has never been interrupted — to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Until endemic polio transmission is stopped, other countries remain at risk for imported cases. For example, Tajikistan is suffering a serious polio outbreak traced back to India.

In response to a $355 million challenge grant awarded to Rotary by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Rotary clubs worldwide are aiming to raise a total of $200 million by 2012. The organization has already raised more than $141 million toward that goal. The funding will provide critical support to polio eradication activities. As outlined in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s 2010 strategic plan, this includes a new, more effective bivalent polio vaccine and a more targeted approach in each country.


We have come a long way,” said Carl-Wilhelm Stenhammar, trustee chair of The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International. We have reduced the number of polio cases by over 99 percent.  But we can’t let up now. The remaining one percent is proving to be the most challenging, since the poliovirus persists in the most intractable parts of the world.  We have the tools to eradicate this devastating disease.  It’s up to us to make sure we have the resources needed to reach every child.” 

To raise awareness and funds for the global push to end polio, Rotary clubs worldwide are conducting activities surrounding World Polio Day:

  • Turkey: Rotarians will participate in the 32nd Eurasia Marathon, spanning the Bosporus Bridge that connects Europe to Asia, to raise funds for polio eradication.
  • Hong Kong: Rotary members will hold their annual 10K race to raise funds for polio eradication. It is a new charity race for elite and recreational runners.  There is also a 3Km race for children.  Last year, nearly 500 runners participated, raising more than HK$100,000.
  • Netherlands: Rotary clubs throughout the Netherlands are teaming up to launch a national Rotary fundraising and awareness campaign for polio eradication. They hope to raise $2.5 million for the $200 million challenge.
  • San Francisco, Calif., USA: Hundreds of Rotary members will participate in a walk on the Embarcadero to show their support for Rotary’s mission to eradicate polio. Later that evening, Rotary members will illuminate the San Francisco Ferry Building with the message — End Polio Now.
  • UK: Rotary members in Great Britain and Ireland participated in The Big Bulb Plant on 2 October, planting thousands of purple crocus plants throughout the city. The flowerbeds, each carrying Rotary’s “End Polio Now,” message are expected to bloom in late February, coinciding with Rotary’s “End Polio Now” lightings and events.
  • Bermuda: Rotary clubs are holding a “Purple Pinky Day,” painting the pinky fingernails of those who donate, similar to the mark received by children who have been given the oral polio vaccine. The Governor will sign a proclamation in honor of Rotary’s work to end polio.

A highly infectious disease, polio causes paralysis and is sometimes fatal. As there is no cure, the best protection is prevention. For as little as 60 cents worth of vaccine, a child can be protected against this crippling disease for life. With an international investment of $8 billion, and the successful engagement of over 200 countries and 20 million volunteers, polio could be the first disease of the 21st century to be eradicated.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is spearheaded by the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).  It includes the support of governments and private sector donors.

Rotary is an organization of business and professional leaders united worldwide to provide humanitarian service and help to build goodwill and peace in the world. It is comprised of 1.2 million members working in more than 33,000 clubs in 200 countries and geographic regions.                                                        

For further information visit,  or

Summit celebrates polio eradication in Nigeria

October 12, 2010

Anne-Lee Hussey, District Governor 7780 – herself a polio survivor – participated in the NIDs and attended the polio Summit in Abuja, Nigeria in Sepember, 2010. This extract is from her October newsletter.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” In the 25 years of Rotary’s journey to eradicate polio we have seen cases of polio decrease by 99 percent globally; from more than 350,000 cases annually to 1000 in all of last year. We have seen the number of endemic countries reduced to just four. For Nigeria over the last 10 years, hopes raised and hopes dashed, plans were made and changed, challenges were tough. At a time when it was thought Nigeria was a lost cause, the world awakened to a dramatic and positive change in their efforts. Nigeria has reported only 7 cases thus far this year. The Polio Summit held in Abuja Nigeria in September could not have come at a better time.

Nigeria’s National Immunization Days ran simultaneously with the Summit affording me the opportunity to participate in both and visit the primary cold chain facility for vaccine storage of northern Nigeria. The purpose of the Summit was to celebrate Nigeria’s recent success but more importantly, to encourage them to sustain their efforts. President Ray Klinginsmith topped the list of many Rotary leaders, partner agencies and various Nigerian political and traditional leaders making up the 400+ attendees.

Nigeria’s recent success evolved from a combination of events: the creation of a Presidential task force, a change in health ministers, a team visit to Kano State Governor led by PRIP Jonathan Majiyagbe, a visit by Bill Gates, signing of commitment of 36 state governors, the endorsement by the Sultan of Sokoto, total commitment by WHO Director General Margaret Chan and traditional and religious leaders joining the cause. And always, Rotary was there with its advocacy, social mobilizations, surveillance and funding and Rotarians within Nigeria and from away giving of their resources and time.

Two messages continue to resonate with me. The first came from his Royal Highness, Idris Musa, the emir of Jiwa, Abuja (shown here).

He stated that no one wants his or her child to be deformed; polio eradication is a great task that must be done. Justified in his comment that traditional leaders have been kept aside watching, he said, “If you want to send a message to the people you must know their habits, their character, their beliefs, taboos and prejudices. If you don’t know this, you will lose. The magic is from the traditional rulers. When you needed help with illiteracy, we were there. When you needed help with Small Pox we were there. What took so long with polio? When Rotary gave us the message, we took it to our people. When the development agencies sent us the message, we took it to our people.” When traditional leaders were finally invited in, the polio numbers dropped markedly.

The second strong message came from RI President Ray, who reminded Nigeria that though their success was astonishing , it was still an endemic country. He recounted the two reasons we must succeed with polio eradication. The first are the children who will be saved. The second is that the future of our organization depends upon our success. Polio Eradication has made Rotary more visible than ever before. “We have become a suitable partner for other NGOs. If we fail, we lose our credibility and our own members will lose confidence. If we fail, Rotary will not continue as the organization we are today. We must not fail.”

DG Ann-Lee concludes with the good news that “the Polio Survivors RAG initiated what ended up being 2 matching grants of a total of $120,000 to purchase new equipment for the tricycle wheelchair shop as well as supplies to build about 800 of these wheelchairs. We couldn’t have done it without the support of 7 districts, 25 clubs from the 4 countries of Nigeria, USA, Hong Kong and Taiwan. I am told it is the largest effort to date to assist polio survivors in Nigeria”.

Waging war on polio in Angola …

October 9, 2010

Angola’s outbreak is currently the only expanding outbreak in Africa and, coupled with ongoing transmission of WPV in DR Congo, is putting at risk the achievement of a key global milestone of the new Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) Strategic Plan 2010-2012, to stop all re-established transmission by end-2010.

Because of polio’s mobility, it is a big wake up call for Southern Africa.

 “The campaign was opened by the Minister of Health – Dr Jose Vandunem (photographed above) on 1 October, where – in a symbolic act – admnistered drops to several children, officially launching the immunisation campaign in Angola which ran from 1 – 3 October, 2010.”

President Arlete de Sousa (front) and her team … ready to go!

Rotarians in Angola are committed to winning the war against polio. They have fought long and hard to combat this dreaded disease. PP Manuel de Sousa who has been heavily involved with NIDs for many years in Angola writes: “This last polio immunisation campaign – to me – had a lot more social engagement of the Angolan people, mainly because the community is now acutely aware that Angola is the country that has been most affected, having regressed in relation to countries that were considered worse off before, but have now considerably improved their situation. Organizations such as the Army, the Catholic Organizations (the Scouts and Mary’s Legion), Students and others from all level of the Civil Society have been involved on these NIDs”.

Florinda Carneiro, the Elect President 2011/12 of the Rotary Club of Luanda administers the vital drops ...

The finger ... proof that another child is protected from the deadly polio virus

According to the latest World Health Organisation weekly update of 29 September, Angola had the highest number of WPV1 cases (24) in Africa – Luanda and the North-Eastern part of Angola being the most affected areas. A new case, still confirmed, was notified in the northern-eastern town of Saurimo.

The next NIDs are scheduled for the end of October.    

“Rotarians of Angola (there are  two new Rotary clubs in the pipe line) will continue to be involved in NIDs in Lobito and in Benguela areas, and here in Luanda. Also in several other areas, assisting the Health Authorities in this giant effort to “Kick the Polio out of Africa”…says PP Manuel de Sousa.

Well done! Keep up the good work. (Editor)

Inspired, Rotary staff support KPOA campaign …

October 6, 2010

As the KPOA ball traveled through 23 countries in four months, it gained incredible support, touching the lives of many with a positive tangible energy, uniting and strengthening the resolve of governments and communities to eradicate polio. But the positive impact of this ball was also felt by those who followed this blog.


The incredible support by the staff of Rotary International to hold a Rotary Kick Polio 5×5 soccer tournament fund-raiser on 29 September at St James Park has, in turn, inspired and energized our KPOA team to finish the job. Failure is not an option!

Above:  Participants trying to find Desmund Tutu’s signature on the soccer ball.

Mary-Beth Johnson, the coordinator of the event writes: “Your continuous efforts and the work done by your KPOA team, particularly during the months leading up to the world cup, have inspired the idea to host a soccer tournament at Rotary headquarters. I followed the blog almost daily and was so impressed by the stories that were posted. As I introduced more colleagues to the tournament idea, they too were as equally excited and they shared the KPOA link and the blog with their colleagues and friends, encouraging them to “sign” the ball (that was such a brilliant website!). It’s been wonderful to see so many staff come together for this – also to have the support of their families and friends.   

Congratulations to Rotary’s very own Hans Guerrier, who led his team, to the championship title. Nice work, “Team Liberia”.  As a result of individual and team donations, Mary-Beth and her colleagues were able to raise a total of US$1,541! This contribution will support Rotary’s work to achieve a polio-free world. 

On behalf of us all, a million thanks. Yours is a shining example of what small groups of committed, passionate people can do to raise funds to eradicate polio, especially now in the run up to World Polio Day on 24 October.

Well done!



Mo Ibrahim: Good Governance Crucial in the Fight Against Polio

October 1, 2010

It’s a common sight in Africa’s streets: a young man pulls himself along on makeshift crutches, trying to sell you cigarettes or cellphone credit. Infected early with polio, this man has lost the use of his legs, and must now work harder and longer than anyone else to make a living.

Click the picture above to read more about Mo and watch an amazing video.

Rotary honors Chad President Idris Deby Itno as a champion in the world-wide effort to eradicate polio

August 12, 2010

In June this year, President Deby Itno publicly reaffirmed his commitment to polio eradication when the symbolic “Kick Polio Out of Africa” football arrived in Chad during its ceremonial tour through 23 polio-affected and high-risk African countries. 

Behind schedule, due to unexpected delays, the football arrived late on Wednesday, June 9 – many thought – too late for President Idris Deby Itno to sign. But the President’s commitment to eradicate polio from Chad, Africa and the World was so great that he delayed an important international state visit to sign the ball, so that Chad would not be left out of the campaign.

Upon receiving the ball, President Deby Itno declared that he would continue to publicly demonstrate his commitment to “kicking polio out of Chad” by personally launching future rounds of polio immunization campaigns.

The decision taken to recognize His Excellency Idris Deby Itno, President of Chad, with the Polio Eradication Champion Award on August 8 for his leadership and dedication in the support of a polio-free world, was well-deserved.  

The award, presented by Dr. Robert Scott, Chair of Rotary’s International PolioPlus Committee (above), is the  highest award Rotary presents to honor heads of state, health agency leaders and others who have made significant contributions toward polio eradication.

“On behalf of Rotary’s 1.2 million members worldwide, I am honored to recognize the commitment of President Idris Deby Itno for his outstanding support of a polio-free world,” said Bob Scott as he presented the award at a gala  gathering to celebrate the event.

President Deby Itno’s commitment to polio eradication spans more than a decade. In 2000, President Deby Itno issued a strong presidential directive to provincial leaders to help ensure that children were being vaccinated against the crippling disease.  Chad remained polio-free for a number of years before imported cases from neighboring polio-endemic Nigeria reinfected the country in 2003. This year, Chad has reported 14 polio cases, which demonstrates the need for continued vigilance against the disease.

This spring, President Deby Itno launched mass countrywide polio immunization campaigns and announced that he was personally declaring “war” on polio and committed CFA 4 billion (US$8 million) to support polio immunization efforts in Chad.

In receiving Rotary’s Polio Eradication Champion Award, President Idris Deby Itno joins a group of other distinguished leaders whom Rotary has honored – including India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, current UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and former Secretary General Kofi Annan, President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan, and former Chairperson of the African Union Commission Alpha Oumar Konare.

The KPOA team send warm congratulations to President Idris Deby Itno on this milestone achievement.

Salute to Desmond Tutu – the Rainbow Nation’s man of peace

July 29, 2010

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mbilo Tutu – Nobel peace laureate and former teacher, often referred to as ‘South Africa’s moral conscience’ announced in St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town on 22 July that he was finally withdrawing from public life, on his birthday in October when he turns 79. “My schedule has grown increasingly punishing over the years,” said Tutu, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer 13 years ago.

“Instead of growing old gracefully, at home with my family, and reading and writing, and praying and thinking, too much of my time has been spent at airports and in hotels. The time has now come to slow down and sit with my beloved wife.”

Desmond Tutu is South Africa’s most famous cleric. He is an icon as near in stature as Nelson Mandela. When asked to name the highlight of his career, Tutu replied immediately: “The day I introduced Nelson Mandela as our newly democratically elected president to South Africa and the world – I said to God: ‘God if I die now, I don’t really mind’.”

Well-known for the courageous role he played in the fight for democracy in South Africa, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. He has accumulated dozens of international accolades. Though his vigorous advocacy of social justice once rendered him a controversial figure, today Archbishop Tutu is regarded as an elder world states-man who has played a major role in reconciliation and as a leading moral voice. He became an icon of hope far beyond the Church and Southern Africa.

For many years Archbishop Desmond Tutu has supported Rotary. In February 2005 he was the keynote speaker at the Centennial Presidential Conference for Africa in Johannesburg, where the first Rotary club was chartered on the continent in 1921. He has been a keynote speaker at many Rotary events, more recently at the Rotary World Peace Symposium in Birmingham, England on June 18, 2009 when he encouraged Rotary World Peace Fellows and young Rotarians to “go for it” in working for world peace. He said that “Rotary’s dedication to peace in the world made God smile”.

A comment on the RI website at the time read “Tutu and Rotary equals world peace”.

A polio survivor himself, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, is a polio ambassador in Rotary’s “This Close” campaign. The football that has travelled through the 23 polio-affected countries during the Kick Polio Out of Africa Campaign, was signed by him and we believe – silently blessed for a safe journey.   

Rotarians in Africa, especially here in Southern Africa, thank Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, for his unwavering support of Rotary and for his dedicated commitment and contribution to world peace. We wish him well in his much deserved retirement from public life. We salute him as he continues to work and strive for peace at the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre which he established as his legacy for world peace.

Bill Gates on Polio Eradication in Nigeria…

July 28, 2010

Please click the picture below to access the video clip

In June, 2010, Bill Gates travelled to a northern state in Nigeria. His focus: Learn how Nigeria is making progress in its fight against polio. He met with government and religious leaders to learn how they’re helping reduce this disease, and where more energy needs to be focused. Watch the amazing footage.