I have just spent a most inspirational weekend in Seattle at a Rotary International training session for incoming club presidents and I want to share some truly amazing news. Did you know that as of February 13, 2013 there have been only two new cases of polio diagnosed in the world this year? At approximately the same time last year, I believe the number was 13. The final three countries in which polio is endemic are Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria — down from more than 125 countries in 1988 when the World Health Organization passed a resolution to eradicate polio. This followed the launching of PolioPlus by Rotary International in 1985.
One of the speakers in Seattle was Ramesh Ferris, a polio survivor born in India in 1979 and adopted by a couple from Whitehorse. Ferris underwent several surgeries in Canada and walks with the aid of crutches and braces. After a visit to India in 2002 where he witnessed the plight of many other polio victims, he created Cycle to Walk and hand-cycled across Canada in order to spread awareness about polio and to raise money to aid in the battle to eradicate the crippling disease. His story is one that will bring a tear to almost any eye.
I am so proud to be a member of this wonderful organization that took on a disease that was doing so much harm and strove to end it. There had to have been many who thought, “What audacity! Who do these people think they are and why do they think they have the power or ability to eradicate a disease?”
Some think it is sad that our younger population has no idea what polio is. I think it is fantastic! Think about it: it has been so long since a North American has been diagnosed with polio that there is a whole generation that doesn’t know it existed. Perhaps I should modify my thoughts somewhat, though. Although it is terrific that our friends and neighbours no longer fear the disease, we must keep in mind that the fight is not over yet. So long as there is one case in the world, the war is not won and we cannot afford to give up now. Should we do so, it is possible that millions of children could still be crippled in the future.
So please take every opportunity you can to support the battle. Polio is still the number one priority for Rotarians around the world… help us end polio now! Visit www.endpolio.org for more information.
Marilyn Berry is the community columnist for The Valley Echo and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.