My mum had polio as a kid, one of thousands of Australians effected by the epidemic of the early 1950s. It meant that her legs were bowed and stunted, and as a result, she never crawled, took years to learn how to walk, and has always found running painful.
I had the opportunity to reflect on this story when I spoke recently at a conference for Rotary District 9500, in Kadina, a couple of hours north of Adelaide. About 270 Rotarians from around South Australia had gathered to reflect on their work in the community, including Rotary’s work on polio.
Rotary are a key part of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, where in partnership with the World Health Organisation, they are looking to completely eradicate the disease by ensuring that all children are vaccinated against the disease. And, it’s working – as you can see at the Gates Foundation site, Living Proof. Today, just four countries remain polio-endemic – Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
If ever you’re after evidence of how our actions can make a difference, here it is. Rotary clubs all around the world – some 30,000 of them, reaching 1.2 million members – have been leading the way, raising funds to enable this eradication to take place. They’ve been doing it for years, and slowly but surely, have been responsible for one of the most far-reaching health improvement programs the world has ever seen. To find out more about health and extreme poverty, click here.