June 24th, 2014

Collingwood - Local residents Pamela Hillier and Martin Oosterveld were two of more than 18,000 Rotarians from around the world recently attending the 2014 Rotary International Conference held on June 1-4 in Sydney, Australia.

Hillier and Oosterveld, Presidents for each of the two Rotary clubs based in Collingwood as of July 1, were eager to share some of the major announcements about the global fight to end polio they heard at the conference.

Dr. Bruce Aylward, a Canadian physician who heads the global effort for the World Health Organization, stated that of the three remaining polio endemic countries in the world, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, one country is very close to elimination and plans are in place to end the eradication task by 2018.

In Nigeria there have only been three new cases since the start of the year. Earlier this year India and all of South East Asia announced they were polio-free and that means that 80% of all children in the world are now born in polio-free countries.

The remaining countries where the virus is still endemic are Pakistan and Afghanistan. The frustrating resistance to vaccination in the tribal border region between these countries is being worn down systematically. While there is concern about some secondary outbreaks in countries such as Syria, Dr. Aylward indicated that with an immediate massive effort these flair-ups can be controlled quickly.

Aylward announced a new strategy has been developed from recent experience that will be used in the next few years. When the secondary flair ups started, they were very concerned that the virus might find a new foothold in Somalia -- with a failed government and very dangerous conditions for vaccine distribution, this could be a major setback in the overall battle.

To avert the problem they set up controls at all the border points in and out of Somalia and vaccinated every person who crossed who could not prove they had previously been vaccinated. This new strategy of total containment worked very well and will now be deployed in all the other endemic and flare up situations. So while it may be very difficult to go into every home and community in the lawless and war torn areas of the world, this new strategy makes sure the virus cannot spread to surrounding areas.

The fight to end polio is not cheap, with an estimated $5.5 billion dollars required over the next five years. Several major funding announcements for the Polio campaign were made at the conference.

Rotary International announced it will be contributing $35 million a year for the next five years, and a new agreement with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will see matching Rotary’s contributions two to one. These two annual contributions result in $105 million dollars.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot attending the conference with his father, also a Rotarian, announced the Australian Government would be contributing $100 million over the next 5 years. Also at the event a Rotary member from Nigeria, Sir Emaka Offor, announced a personal donation of $1 million and free office space for the Nigerian effort for as long as required.

There are 34,282 Rotary Clubs and over 1.2 million members worldwide. The two Collingwood-based clubs will continue their efforts to support international, regional and local projects through fundraising and volunteer service. Combined the two clubs raise more than $200,000 each year and have almost 100 members. New members are always welcome.

If you have bought a Rotary calendar, a Trip of the Month ticket, or attended the Scotch Nosing & Noshing or the Taste of the Town events – you are supporting the work of Rotary in your community and beyond. For more information about the polio campaign visit www.endpolio.org and to find out about becoming a member visit one of the local clubs at www.rotarycollingwood.org or www.rotarycollingwoodsgb.org.



Dr. Martin Oosterveld is President-elect, Rotary Club of Collingwood - South Georgian Bay marled@rogers.com

(705) 446-8747 (mobile)


Pamela Hillier is President-elect of the Rotary Club of Collingwood phillier@communityconnection.ca

705-446-6831 (mobile)


References: http://www.endpolio.org/ http://www.gatesfoundation.org/What-We-Do/Global-Development/Polio