RI’s polio infrastructure aiding ebola fight

Screen shot 2014-11-10 at 1.44.37 PMRotary International President Gary C.K. Huang and the RI Board of Directors have issued this statement on the ebola crisis in Africa.

We express their deepest concern and empathy for those countries and individuals impacted by the ebola outbreak.

We recognize that public health professionals and community health workers working on polio eradication, particularly in West Africa, will be called upon to help respond to the Ebola crisis. Nevertheless, despite this redeployment of resources, polio eradication efforts to boost the immunity of children in the area continue, and synchronized polio immunization campaigns were held in September across 18 west and central African countries during which 94 million children were immunized against polio.

Rotary continues to closely monitor the latest developments, and work with the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other partners to respond to both polio and Ebola.

Fighting disease is a priority of our members, who have organized countless projects around the world aimed at educating and mobilizing communities to prevent the spread of major diseases such as polio, HIV/AIDS, and malaria.

While our response to ebola continues to evolve, much already has been accomplished:

• Through our investments in the polio eradication infrastructure in Nigeria, the government was able to help stop the outbreak of ebola. The polio surveillance network – used to monitor cases for polio – is being employed to identify and track suspected ebola cases and has contributed to Nigeria’s successful response. It is important to remember that Nigeria is one of three polio endemic countries and we must continue our efforts on eradicating polio to prevent new outbreaks.

• Rotary leadership continues to reach out to Rotarians in affected regions to determine how we can strengthen our response. Additionally, Rotary has created a working group to review the results of our findings, and help guide our outreach efforts.

• In addition to our global organizational plans, Rotary members are being mobilized on the ground to help prevent the spread of ebola and other major diseases. The Rotary Club of Monrovia, Liberia, for example, is working directly with that nation’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to enhance local support for ebola patients, health workers, and support personnel. Rotarians are soliciting funds to buy locally available items, providing much needed transportation, tracking potential ebola cases, and supporting the reintegration of those who have recovered from the virus. Funding for the Monrovia project also will be used for local vehicle repair, fuel, medicine, mattresses, buckets, and other supplies.

The Monrovia club has asked for donations of gowns, gloves, face masks, shoe covers, plastic boots, and, sadly, body bags. Please contact Yoquai Lavala with copy to David Frankfort for more information on where to send items, and read more about the club’s project in Rotary Ideas.

Rotarians and friends of Rotary also can support our broader efforts to address public health concerns by contributing to the Rotary Foundation’s disease prevention and treatment fund. Contributions can be made securely online by selecting the Annual Fund option. They are eligible for Paul Harris Fellow recognition. While these gifts may not contribute directly to current ebola relief efforts, they will be put to effective use to support Rotary’s ongoing commitment to prevent disease and improve access to health care around the world.hr />

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