My name is Piper Paquen. I’m a journalist... And I’m about to break the biggest story of the year.
But I need your help. Right now every one of us has the power to achieve something incredible in our generation, something monumental for the whole world.
A few weeks ago, my professional interest was piqued by the arrival of a peculiar package- and ever since I have been drawn into a profound personal journey, uncovering a tale of monumental proportions… and one thatcould change the course of history.
This is the story of Polio. This is my story.
As a child growing up in Pittsburgh, USA, I was lucky.
A few decades before my birth, a terrible disease had raged across the country, causing widespread fear and panic. Epidemics had shut down schools, closed public spaces and made families barricade themselves in their homes. Hospital wards filled with iron lungs and manufacturers struggled to keep up with demand for crutches as healthy individuals were paralysed and sometimes killed by a debilitating disease - polio.
The virus spread rapidly across the globe – affecting millions.
Vaccination programs have now ensured that polio epidemics are a distant memory for most of us; but the disease continues to threaten children in some of our world’s poorest communities.
Its effects were indiscriminate – and they followed one man’s journey to the top.
That man was Franklin Delano Roosevelt - the 32nd president of the United States of America.
At 39 Roosevelt caught polio, and was paralysed from the waist down. As President of the United States, Roosevelt would go on to publicly spearhead a national campaign for urgent medical research into the disease.
Millions of dimes came in, marching.
His ‘March of Dimes’ called on all Americans to send a single dime in to help in the fight against polio. Millions would go on to send money directly to the White House, donating more than a $1,000,000,000 to set up the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (NFIP) and raising the funds needed to develop the first polio vaccine in 1962.
This wasn’t a campaign, it was a movement by the entire people, beating polio in America… and beating polio worldwide today by 99%.
Polio in America was just the start. By looking at the first two pictographs on the ring I had learned about a national epidemic, a movement by the people and the hope of the first vaccination against Polio, for the people. This was a disease that could strike anywhere, cripple and paralyse a population.
Was I to join the fight against Polio? As I chased the story further I felt more and more inspired – there is a new global movement that is helping to make the end of polio a reality, and in 2011 we stand on the brink of eradicating the second human disease in history, with just 1% to go.
That’s why I’ve joined the Global Poverty Project and Rotary International to create this petition and make it happen.
When I became a journalist I never dreamed I’d get to see such a monumental achievement for mankind.
With a signature you will be adding your voice to the thousands of supporters calling for an end to a crippling and potentially fatal disease that threatens the lives and prosperity of millions.
That’s 5 million children who can now play, learn and grow without the disabling impact of polio in their lives.
Follow the rest of my blogs to find out what happened when I traced the pictographs further, how a vaccine became the hope of millions and how a global movement created the largest peaceful army in the world…
This is the story of Polio. This is your story.
The End of Polio is within reach. Together, we can make it reality.
Summertime in the 1950s came as a mixed blessing for children in the United States. Although the long sun drenched days brought plenty of time to play and hang out with friends, they were also a time of widespread panic and fear among the parents.
In mid-20th century America, summer was known as “polio season”.
Polio was at epidemic proportions, spreading quickly and causing mass public fear. Local authorities closed the schools and public pools, and my friends would often be kept home because their parents wanted to protect against this highly infectious disease known to paralyse and, in some cases, kill otherwise healthy individuals.
In 1952, when I was just two, a record 58,000 cases were reported; over one third were paralytic. Local hospital wards began to fill with iron lungs and crutches, to support children affected by the disease.
The early years of my life were important breakthrough years for my father, Albert Sabin, and his research into the oral poliovirus vaccine. At 7 my sister and I became vaccine guinea pigs, along with many neighbourhood friends. At the same time massive trials were conducted in Russia, Japan and parts of Europe. It was harder to gain approval for US testing as the Salk killed virus vaccine had been introduced in 1955 resulting in a significant decrease in cases of paralytic polio. Finally on April 24, 1960 the oral vaccination my father developed was being rolled out across the country and the slogan ‘Sabin Oral Sunday’ was plastered across the city. People wore SOS badges, and SOS signs were put up on buses and billboards, as Newspapers promoted vaccination days and children were brought in hordes to receive their ‘sugar cube vaccine’. By then one of the neighbourhood girls had already been paralyzed and returned to school with crutches.
By the mid-1960s worldwide use of my father’s vaccine had prevented an estimated 5 million cases of paralytic polio, and about 500,000 deaths worldwide. To ensure his work would serve as many people as possible, in 1972, he donated his virus ‘seed strains’ to the World Health Organisation – to ensure the vaccination’s basic ingredient would be available to all, and cheaper for governments and the UN to buy.
In the decades since this donation, global collaboration has helped deliver incredible numbers of vaccinations across the developed and developing world. Since 1988 it is estimated that over 10 billion doses of my father’s vaccine have been administered by organisations like Rotary International; and global immunisation programs over the past 30 years have helped achieve a remarkable 99% reduction in cases worldwide.
Now only four countries remain endemic: Nigeria, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. Last year India and Nigeria cut their cases by 95% each, and there were just 1,349 cases of polio diagnosed worldwide.
But despite this incredible progress in my lifetime, the potential to realise my father’s vision of eradicating this disease is currently at risk. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, the public-private partnership leading eradication efforts, faces a significant funding gap for its 2011-2012 programs.
I am immensely proud of my father’s contribution to polio eradication efforts, and the global collaboration that has brought eradication of this disease within reach. Please join me in ensuring that this work does not go to waste - join The End of Polio campaign to show your support for the eradication of a disease that continues to needlessly threaten the livelihoods of thousands of vulnerable children.
Four 30 second cartoons have been produced by a team of creatives at the Cartoon Network UK and feature Ziii on her tireless quest to spread malaria far and wide. Happily, she is frequently foiled by barriers to her bloodsucking, including mosquito nets and mosquito spray.
We hope the cartoons will inspire people to get involved in the fight against malaria. You can share them with your friends via facebook or twitter and take on special ‘Mozzy Missions’ see below for more information!
Malaria tragically claims 781,000 lives every year with over 90% of all deaths in Africa. Those most risk from catching malaria are children under 5 and pregnant women. But malaria is preventable and treatable. In 2010 alone 485 children’s lives were saved every day from malaria thanks to the use of nets, sprays, tests and medicines.
Malaria No More UK champions efforts for people across the UK to get involved and help save lives. Last year we raised funds and awareness that helped to protect over two million people from malaria in Africa.
It’s the fact that we can make a difference and success is possible that got me involved in the fight against malaria. It is brilliant to work on an issue where you can really see what a difference it makes. I’ve been to Ghana a few times to see our work there and always come back even more inspired than before. You can read more on our website. We have lots of stories of those we help on the ground and those who help fundraise and campaign to support MNMUK. If you have a story to tell please about malaria add your own!
Parents Bonafactious and Valencia live with their family in rural Namibia. Their home is in an isolated part of the country meaning they are officially some of the ‘hardest to reach’ communities with little access to malaria prevention and treatment support. Their youngest daughter, Patricia is just one year old so especially vulnerable, as children under five account for 85% of all malaria deaths in Africa.
Bonafactious remembers suffering from malaria when he grew up, all too often this meant missing school for months at a time. Bonafactious recalls: “Many of us were suffering from malaria at home and missed out on our education. One time I was in hospital for two months and got very behind at school”.
Thanks to your support we funded a project to deliver mosquito nets to the Oroses family along with practical malaria prevention advice and information to help them live malaria free. Bonfactious is grateful for our support and relieved to have the nets and to know how to use them. He said: “I am very glad now we have the nets. I hope my children will be safe from malaria and able to stay in school”.
Namibia is seeing great progress in ending deaths from malaria with a 95% drop in malaria deaths in the last decade. Malaria No More UK is supporting Namibia’s ultimate goal of eliminating malaria by 2020 thanks to ongoing access to nets, malaria tests, medicines and education. You can read more about Malaria No More UK’s work here Namibia
What else are we doing?
To raise awareness in the UK we are working with MTVUK on a Music to Save Lives campaign. MTVUK very kindly made an advert for us that they are promoting this year. And if you are lucky enough to go the V festival you will see the ad played throughout the two days and can enter a text competition to win tickets to V festival 2012.
We would love you to get involved and help make malaria no more!
• Twitter:retweet our @malarianomoreuk tweets.
• Facebook:follow us on facebook and ‘Like’ us too. Tag us on your update so it comes up on our wall too.
• YouTube: we are featuring a short version of the Cartoon Network animation on - and you can also see our MTV advert there too. Please favourite these and promote to them to your friends.
• Fundraise: there are lots of exciting ways you can fundraise for malaria no more. Join the MNMUK ladies team for the addidas women’s challenge in September or sky dive for malaria no more. See our website for more details.
End the Cycle is a poverty campaign with a difference. At first glance, it might not seem like it – isn’t it just using people’s stories from Cambodia and the Solomon Islands to highlight issues of poverty in relation to disability? That might seem fairly standard, but it is the story behind the stories that makes this campaign so distinctive – because it has been developed using a human rights-based approach.
End the Cycle aims to achieve empowerment and increased awareness of the cycle of poverty and disability by practising inclusion. So people with disabilities and their organisations have had genuine participation in every stage of resource development, retaining control over the use of their own words and images – local ownership was very important to us.
The decision to develop this campaign came when we realised that most people don’t know about the links between poverty and disability. We asked ourselves who should tell them – and felt strongly that it should be people with disabilities themselves. As an organisation, CBM also wanted to explore and learn from new ways of collecting resources.
We started gathering resources for this campaign about a year ago. We spent two weeks gathering footage, interviews and photographs in Cambodia, and another two weeks doing the same thing in the Solomon Islands. Our resource collection team included people with disabilities from the local community through grassroots organisations – the Cambodia Disabled People’s Organisation and People with Disability Solomon Islands. Interestingly, these local partners were not existing partners of CBM, which was a deliberate strategy to increase the objectivity of stories – we didn’t want people to feel they had to tell a certain story to “the donor”.
After several weeks of editing video, compiling the interviews and creating factsheets around various issues related to poverty and disability, we sent the materials back to Cambodia and the Solomon Islands to be shared with the people who had first shared their stories with us. Using a translator, participants were able to see the videos, the photos we had taken and the stories. They checked that they were being represented just as they had wanted to be – as active, contributing members of their families and communities, with the same rights, hopes and challenges as everyone else. This process in itself contributes to the empowerment of people with disabilities - who are so often ignored. Of course, it also slowed down the process of completing our resources – but we think it was worth it. The Disabled People’s Organisations also appreciated it and have plans to use the campaign materials in their own advocacy and training of other organisations.
We believe this campaign brings a balanced and thoughtful approach to storytelling and is aligned with the slogan of the disability-rights movement: “Nothing about Us without Us”. People with disabilities are speaking for themselves rather than being spoken about by others, recognised appropriately as the ones who know best about their lived experience of disability.
How we represent people we work with - especially in this age of limited privacy and the scope of the internet - is something CBM is exploring through this campaign. We share this methodology both to hold ourselves accountable, and to share with other organizations who might be wrestling with how to communicate about complex and multi-dimensional people as well as building understanding amongst our followers. We believe this approach is not only helpful for accountability, but allows our campaign to be more authentic and compelling.
We would like to continue and extend our work with this human rights-based approach. It was definitely positive to work with Disabled People’s Organisations in the story collection – it felt like a respectful partnership, where people could say what they thought. This also meant that sometimes we didn’t get exactly the quotes we were hoping for and couldn’t reinterpret people’s stories. This was challenging at times but a reality of working with the methodology of the campaign. When we are next gathering stories, we would also build more time into the feedback process – so we weren’t rushing people in Cambodia and the Solomon Islands to give us their feedback.
What do you think about the campaign? Is this different to the way you’ve seen disability portrayed before? Do you think it is feasible for more stories of people in the majority world to be collected in this way? We’d love to see your comments below.
We invite you to read more about our approach, sign the “End the Cycle” pledge, and follow @EndTheCycleAUS on Twitter and Facebook.
Last week I met with the Australian PM Julia Gillard, to discuss the Global Poverty Project's call to make the eradication of polio a priority issue at the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) being held in Perth this year.
I handed the Prime Minister a letter signed by over 700 Australians, outlining 10 reasons Australia should step up their efforts to eradicate this debilitating disease.
This meeting is the first of many taking place this year around the country (and the world) focused on the eradication of polio – a cause which has been making considerable progress since Australian Rotarians commenced their global eradication push in 1979.
Since then, we have seen incidences of the disease reduced by 99%, and the number of polio-endemic countries reduced to just 4 countries worldwide. We are now in a position where we could see this disease eliminated entirely by 2014. As I discussed with the Prime Minister last week; arguments in favour of eradication have never been more compelling. While the cost of health and vaccination investments needed to eliminate polio is estimated at $710 million, the cost of maintaining polio cases at current levels for the next 20 years is predicted to be $10 billion. Moreover, according to the World Health Organisation, if the goal of eradication were to be abandoned and replaced with that of containment, the number of cases of polio recorded could increase from 1,300 to as many as 250,000 per year.
An Australian commitment to eradication would be significant for a number of reasons. not only will it protect future generations from the paralysis, disability and death caused by this preventable disease, but it would also demonstrate the investment value of foreign aid – highlighting the life-changing impact aid dollars have and emphasising the importance of our foreign aid program.
This was something that particularly hit a chord with the Prime Minister. Reflecting on a conversation she had recently with Melinda Gates, and recent media coverage - the Prime Minister agreed that it was important to highlight the positive impact of our foreign aid investment. With many leaders from developing countries expected to be present at this October’s CHOGM meeting, the Prime Minister said she was interested in CHOGM having a clear development focus, and said she would consider including polio eradication as an agenda item to be considered by Commonwealth leaders at the meeting. It is my belief that with focused efforts and continued public attention on this important issue, we can build on the incredible efforts of Australian Rotarians since 1979, and create the momentum and public pressure needed for world leaders to make a commitment to eradicate polio from our world within 3 years.
As Bono once said “we can’t blame the politicians because we have to give them permission to spend what is in the end our money.”
This is why the Global Poverty Project, in partnership with countless Rotary clubs and districts around Australia, are embarking on an education and advocacy campaign in the lead up to this October’s CHOGM meeting, to raise public awareness about the unprecedented opportunity we have to see an End to Polio.
Globally, we stand on the cusp of a historic event. If eradicated, polio would be only the second disease to be eradicated from our world in the history of humanity. We now have the chance to finish what Australian Rotarians started in 1979 – and we look to leadership by the Commonwealth in bringing this about.
To join the Global Poverty Project’s campaign to End Polio, sign up below. Michael Sheldrick is the Australian Campaign Manager for the Global Poverty Project, an education and advocacy organisation focused on ensuring both the public and private sectors in OECD nations take action to contribute to the end of extreme poverty.