Rotarians may not be meeting in person, but the work and impact of Rotary continues during this unprecedented time.  At the BEL Rotary meeting on Monday night Past District Governor Brian Menton, updated the club on the tremendous strides rotary has made in polio eradication and how the infrastructures and resources to fight polio are aiding developing countries in responding to Covid – 19.

“Rotary knows how to respond to a Virus outbreak. Since 1988 Rotary and its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative have been dealing with the eradication of the Polio virus and are almost there. Only two countries have the wild polio virus, Afghanistan with 11 cases and Pakistan with 43 as of May 06, 2020 (compared to more than 350,000 cases a year 30 short years ago).

From the earliest days of Polio eradication, the generosity and advocacy of Rotarians and their partners has nearly stopped Polio, has stopped Ebola from becoming an epidemic in Nigeria and is now responding to Covid 19.
We are facing a pandemic caused by a virus that does not have a vaccine. We faced this crisis with the polio virus not so long ago. Many of us remember how Polio affected our family members or our friends.

Our current situation with Covid 19 requires worldwide cooperation and effort. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), with thousands of polio workers and an extensive laboratory and surveillance network, has a moral imperative to ensure that these resources are used to support countries in their preparedness and response to disease.

Over the next four to six months, the polio program will be offering its tools, workforce and extensive network to support countries as they respond to the current pandemic. Globally the polio surveillance network is being trained on Covid-19 case detection, contact tracing, laboratory testing and data management” said Menton.

“Dorothy and I had the opportunity to see firsthand how extensive the polio network is. In Nigeria, their network of polio infrastructure includes 20,000 volunteer community mobilizers, working across the country to promote hand washing to reduce transmission. The Polio network is also being used to strengthen disease surveillance and to train frontline workers on how to stay safe.

Few health programs have as much practice tracking a virus or reaching out to communities as the Pakistan Polio eradication program. This means the Polio team is in a strong position to support the Government of Pakistan in Covid-19 preparedness and response.

In both of these countries and in many others the polio infrastructure is on the front line helping to reduce the number of people who might get the virus”, Menton continued. Once a vaccine for Covid-19 is available, Rotary will, in all likelihood be asked to help get the vaccine to people throughout the world. We have the expertise, infrastructure, and volunteer base.

Rotarians continue to support polio eradication though their generous donations. This in turn will help many countries of the world respond to Covid – 19. Thanks to our partnership with Bill and Melinda Gates and the Rotary Foundation, this money is currently matched 6:1. BEL Rotary continues to be a significant contributor and we thank our generous community who has supported us over the years during our “Purple Pinkie Campaign”. Your dollars are making a difference during this pandemic!