CHICAGO, USA, October 25, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ – Nigerian-born Paralympian Dennis Ogbe joined Emmy-winning actress Archie Panjabi to encourage public support for the global initiative to eradicate polio as part of a special program co-hosted by Rotary (http://www.rotary.org/en) and Northwestern University’s Center for Global Health on Oct. 24 – World Polio Day 2013 – in downtown Chicago.
The program, World Polio Day: Making History, included remarks by Dr. Bruce Aylward (http://www.who.int/dg/adg/aylward/en/index.html), the world’s leading expert on polio eradication and assistant director-general for polio, emergencies and country collaboration at the World Health Organization; Dr. Robert Murphy (http://fsmweb.northwestern.edu/faculty/facultyProfile.cfm?xid=12723), director of Northwestern University’s Center for Global Health; and Rotary International President Ron D. Burton.
“Over the years, I have learned not to look at anything as impossible, and that includes – especially — the eradication of polio,” said Ogbe, who contracted polio at age three in his family’s village in rural Nigeria and is now an ambassador for the United Nations Foundation’s Shot@Life program promoting childhood immunizations. “We all know that polio is completely preventable. And we have the tools – the vaccines — to stop it.”
Ogbe is now a U.S. citizen and lives in the state of Kentucky, where he works as wellness coordinator for Brown-Forman Company. He is a member of the U.S. Paralympics team, competing in discus, javelin and shot put.
The Chicago event was streamed live to a global online audience at Rotary’s polio eradication website, http://www.endpolio.org, from Northwestern University’s John Hughes Auditorium. The program will remain archived on the website.
The program included an overview of the progress of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (http://www.polioeradication.org), which Rotary co-launched in 1988; the challenges that remain in the corners of the developing world where the crippling virus persists, and a discussion of the ways private citizens, corporations, and non-profits can participate in the historic final push now underway to end polio once and for all.
Panjabi is one of Rotary’s End Polio Now celebrity ambassadors. Last year, the British born actress helped Rotary volunteers immunize children in India, her parents’ homeland, where she spent part of her childhood. Once considered the nation facing the most serious challenges to eradication, India was removed from the polio-endemic list in January 2012.
“”Seeing India become polio-free is tremendous, and I am committed to making sure that no other child anywhere suffers from polio again,” Panjabi said in an interview published in the November issue of The Rotarian magazine.
Rotary and polio eradication
When Rotary began its polio eradication work in the late 1970s,the disease infected more than 350,000 people a year, compared with the 223 cases for 2012 – a drop of more than 99 percent.
In 1988, Rotary helped launch the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (http://www.polioeradication.org) with the WHO, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since then, Rotary club members worldwide have contributed more than $1.2 billion and countless volunteer hours to the polio eradication effort.
Overall, the annual number of new polio cases has plummeted by more than 99 percent since the 1980s, when polio infected about 350,000 children a year. Only 223 new cases were recorded for all of 2012. More than two billion children have been immunized in 122 countries, preventing five million cases of paralysis and 250,000 deaths. Polio today remains endemic in only three countries, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, although “imported” cases in previously polio-free areas – such as the Horn of Africa — will continue to occur until the virus is finally stopped in the endemic countries.
This year, polio eradic ation fundraisers will have greater impact due to the new fundraising campaign, End Polio Now: Make History Today (http://www.endpolio.org), recently launched by Rotary and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Gates Foundation will match two for one every new dollar Rotary commits to polio eradication up to US$35 million per year through 2018.