The Hammonton Rotary Club got an up-close look at Rotary International’s decades-long global effort to eradicate polio during its meeting Thursday, Sept. 29 at Rocco’s Townhouse in Hammonton.
Don Guardian of the Atlantic City Rotary Club gave a Power Point presentation about a 10-day trip he took with fellow Rotarians toNigeriain 2007. He was among 90 Rotarians from theUnited StatesandCanadathat traveled to the West African nation to participate in National Immunization Day, part of an ongoing effort to administer vaccine to all children in the nation of 130 million people.
Guardian, assistant regional Rotary Foundation coordinator for Rotary International and a past governor of Rotary District 7640, explained that Nigeria is one of four remaining countries where polio is a threat, the others being Pakistan, Afghanistan and India.
The Nigerian effort is especially challenging, he said, due to difficulties in gaining acceptance of its Muslim population. Through persistent efforts Rotary has had success building trust in the country’s remotest villages, many of which are controlled by al–Qaeda.
Guardian shared the heart felt story of his own experience, describing the nation’s extreme poverty, and the many ways that Rotary is making a difference by supplying water and other basic needs. He described the inspiring spirit of the people, especially that of fellow Rotarians and the members from 50 clubs and 19 countries in the region who were gathered in the capital ofAbujafor an annual convention.
Guardian visited Hammonton to promote Rotary Foundation, whose fundraising has supported Rotary International’s global war on polio for more than two decades. More than 1.3 million Rotary members worldwide have contributed more than $1 billion and countless volunteer hours to the polio eradication effort.
Through Rotary’s efforts, more than 2 billion children in 122 countries have been immunized, preventing 5 million cases of paralysis and 250,000 pediatric deaths. Through these efforts the number of infections has fallen from about 350,000 cases in 1988 to fewer than 1,300 reported in 2010.
Recently Rotary has pledged to raise an additional $200 million for the foundation to match $355 million in challenge grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.