In 1985, there were more than 200,000 cases of polio worldwide. So, the World Health Organisation (WHO), Unicef, Centre for Prevention of Diseases in USA and the Rotary community got together to eradicate the disease by 2000.
However, there are still about 300 cases in around six to 10 countries in Asia and Africa, says Praduman Jain, district chairman of the Polio Eradication Fundraising Campaign, Rotary Club of Calcutta Chowringhee. The new eradication target is 2005, the 100th birthday of Rotary International.
Murshidabad is one of the main polio pockets in India. And fresh cases have been detected in Calcutta itself this year. National Immunisation Days are on January 4 and February 9, and fundraising is on in full swing. Rotary Chowringhee recently hosted Paraphernalia — A Garden Bazaar, with 14 food stalls, offering jalapenos to jalebis, and 18 product stalls, selling seasonal decorations to terracotta.
“The attendance was very good. About 2,000 people turned up, and we hope to have raised about Rs 70,000 to Rs 1 lakh,” says Jain. The money will be handed over to Rotary International, who will then pass it on to the government.
“The problem with vaccination is that certain communities still believe it makes the child sterile. So, awareness campaigns, with posters and banners, are almost as important,” says Rotarian Sangeeta Sood. “We have the government’s support. They provide the set-up, and we provide the vaccines. Wards 51 and 52, which are covered by our club, have 16 booths, with one medical person and two helpers.”
Nearly a billion dollars are still needed to combat polio. Of this, $80 million are being raised by the Rotaries, $80 million are being donated by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, $240 million by WHO and $500 million by corporate houses. “A lot of money is being spent on polio, which could be utilised elsewhere. Hence, the sooner we get rid of the disease, the better,” sums up Jain.