Story by Casey Lessard
Although it’s not very common in Canada today, polio had a serious and sometimes deadly impact on Canadians until the 1950s. Today, polio (or poliomyelitis) affects about 1,000 people worldwide, with almost all cases occurring in India, Afghanistan and Nigeria. That’s down from 350,000 cases in 1985, when Rotary International pledged to eradicate the disease from the planet. Since then, Rotary has raised billions of dollars to fight polio, and plans to continue until it’s history.
“There is no cure for polio,” says Grand Bend Rotary’s Foundation coordinator Brian Hall. “The only cure is to wipe it out.”
Hall’s father contracted polio at age two. The virus destroys neurons, stopping communication between the nervous system and muscles. This can cause temporary or permanent paralysis.
“They told his parents that he would never walk,” Hall says of his father. “He did ultimately walk, but the leg that the polio affected was two inches shorter than his other leg. He could never run, skate, or walk like a normal person. He limped and was lucky to be able to walk at all.”
For Rotary, the only solution is to immunize all of the children in the countries where polio still exists.
“Our big push this year is the Rotary toll road on the Labour Day weekend,” Hall says. “This year, our club has committed all of the funds from the toll road to polio.”
Each shot costs between $0.50 to $0.80 to administer, depending on the child’s location. India alone plans to vaccinate 172 million children in a series of six national vaccination days, and another 69 million children after that.
“No question we’re going to eradicate it,” Hall says. “The quicker we get this done, the sooner we can direct the funds toward other causes.”
To show your support, the Rotary club will be at the main lights in Grand Bend on the Labour Day weekend collecting donations. Anything you can offer will help.