Nagrik Dialogue

Rotary India’s role in eradicating Polio

Ashok Mahajan
Chairman, Rotary India’s Covid Task Force Past Director Rotary International Past Trustee, The Rotary Foundation Former member of Rotary’s International Polio plus Committee and advisor to India National Polio Plus Committee of Rotary
  1. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative – a partnership between WHO, UNICEF, CDC and Rotary International – was launched to eradicate polio from the world, and at the same time strengthen health infrastructure. The Initiative has achieved significant progress toward both these goals. Polio is now gone from the Americas and Western Pacific region and showing no trace in Europe. There has been a dramatic decline in cases everywhere in the thirty years since the target was set in 1988.
  2. Rotary International, a voluntary organization comprising 1.2 million members working over 35,748 Rotary clubs across 220 countries, is fairly well known for its commitment for undertaking different humanitarian programmes that address today’s challenging issues, polio eradication being one of them. The dream of achieving a world free of polio is perhaps one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken by Rotary.
  3. Rotary International is the spearheading member of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and is the largest private sector donor. Till date Rotary has contributed US$ nearly US $2.1 billion (Rs. 11,550 crores @55) worldwide. In India alone Rotary’s contribution stands at US $ 199million (Rs. 1095 crore).
  4. These funds are provided to UNICEF and WHO for Polio eradication activities. In addition, tens of thousands of Rotarians have partnered with various Governments, UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and with health providers at the grassroots level in thousands of communities.
  5. Its volunteers throughout the world have helped organize national immunization days, staffed health stations and given drops to children. In addition to their own record-breaking financial contribution for polio eradication besides countless volunteer man-hours, Rotarians have helped leverage a further US $ 6.7 billion from the governments the world over for this cause.
  6. India has 1.45,743 lakh members through around 3728 Rotary clubs dedicated to ending Polio in the country.
  7. In India since the campaign was launched the disease incidence has reduced to ‘Zero ‘at present.
  8. Indian Rotarians are also contributing to the program by donating large funds and in kind support. During every NID /SNID Indian Rotarians are seen volunteering by manning Polio booths and administering Polio drops to children.
  9. So far in India Rotary’s India National PolioPlus Committee (INPPC) has actively been involved in Social Mobilization, media management, and political, bureaucratic and religious advocacy to make Polio immunization widely acceptable. Successfully gaining access to children who have never been reached before is an integral component of Rotary PolioPlus Commitment.
  10. Consequent to the sustained advocacy efforts of Rotary’s India National PolioPlus Committee, and the central government’s leadership, India implemented supplementary immunization activity as National Immunization Days in 1995. Followed by regular two annual NIDs, and few Sub-NIDs wherever required.
  11. INPPC has garnered political support for the program by involving the President, the Prime Minister, Chief Ministers, Health Ministers and local politicians in the program.
  12. Rotary also enlisted bureaucratic support by involving the Cabinet Secretary, the Chief Secretary, the Principal Secretary, District Magistrates and other health officials in the polio campaign.
  13. Rotary approached senior minority leaders such as the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid and the President of All India Muslim Personal Law Board and was successful in enlisting their support. Further INPPC formed a Rotary Muslim Ulema Committee in the state of U.P, comprising of senior Muslim scholars and religious leaders to address issues of resistance amongst Muslim population and appeal to Muslim parents to immunize children against Polio. Rotary’s Muslim Ulema Committee played an important to overcome the resistance and acceptance of polio vaccination, thus helping to achieve the polio free UP and India.PRID Ashok Mahajan heads this group.
  14. Today this Ulema Committee that Rotary helped set up in the State is a vital resource that the U.P. Govt. and other social organizations seek intervention from time to time for their ongoing programs to bring about an overall improvement in the social-economic life of the minority community.
  15. INPPC’s Polio Corrective Surgery and Rehabilitation Camps for the polio-affected children is one of the finest examples of its commitment towards polio eradication and the overall welfare of the children. So far nearly 7000 polio-inflicted children have been operated upon and rehabilitated through 82 camps held in different endemic states of the country.Similarly free health camps are being organized by Rotary in different districts to cater to the urgent health needs of the people including Polio immunization.
  16. Apart from advocacy efforts, Rotary also makes extensive use of various IEC materials, such as comic books, video vans, banners and posters,etc, to publicize the cause of polio eradication. To keep the importance of Polio immunization alive in media and general, Rotary has organized different events involving celebrities from the sports and entertainment world and also hosted media briefings to promote the polio eradication program.
  17. Humanitarian organizations world over are partnering with Rotary International in their biggest humanitarian initiative to rid the world of Polio. In a major boost to the eradication campaign, the Gates Foundationcontributed a whopping US $ 355 million. Rotary International accepted to raiseUS $ 200 million against the Gates Foundation grant by June 2012.Rotary help raisethe matching grant exceeding the challenge to US $ 228 million.Going forward, the Gates Foundation will match two-to-one, up to US$35 million per year, every dollar Rotary commits to reduce the funding shortfall for polio eradication through 2020.
  18., inspired by Rotary’s efforts donated a sum of US $ 3.5 million to the Polio eradication effort worldwide to Rotary Foundation. In India The Aditya Birla Group with its patron Smt. Rajashree Birla who is an honorary member of Rotary Club Mumbai has contributed US $ 11 million. Ms. Usha Mittal (of Arcellor Mittal Group) has donated to Rotary a total contribution of USD 1.5 million towards Polio eradication fund. And Rtn. Harshad Mehta, Chairman of Rosy Blue Diamond has contributed more than US $ 3.5million.
  19. In January 2014, India completed three years without a case of Polio and along with 10 SEAR countries was awarded the Southeast Asia Regional Polio-free certification by WHO on 27 March 2014.
  20. Rotary has supplied IEC material to Govt. of India to improve upon the Routine Immunization level.
  21. MOU has been signed between the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, GOI and the India National PolioPlus Committee of Rotary International in respect of the Polio Eradication Programme, Routine Immunization including Mission Indradhanush, Intensified Mission Indradhanush and Elimination of Measles and Rubella on 6 December 2017 in the office of the Honourable Health and Family Welfare Minister Mr. J.P. Nadda at NirmanBhavan, New Delhi.

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