Monday, March 05, 2007

Bus Hopping

Bill Coffman, JoAnn Dawson, Dana McCoy and I helped vaccinate children in the town of Rourkee in the Northern state of Uttaranchal.

The green clothed baby was the youngest we vaccinated. The Rotarian host with whom I stayed was a doctor. He delivered this baby on the 11th of February via cessarian section. The baby was vaccinated 20 hours later on the 12th.

The fun day was when we were bus hopping. Bill from Miami Beach, Florida and I worked at a transit station. After seeing too many buses go by with kids on them, we started jumping on buses. We'd start at the back and work forward, checking to see if any child needed to be vaccinated. If so, we would vaccinate and continue towards the front of the bus. When done, the bus drivers would pull over, let us out and we would walk back to the transit station. I did this two times, then three more times once Bill joined me.
Don Black, member of RC of Eagle River, Alaska

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Great news for local NID effort

Noelle Galperin of Coral Gables, Florida and I joined a local Rotarian and pulmonary physician for visits to various NID booths in Dehradun.

Our first stop was a local community health center where we were greeted by two physicians – the female director and a male staff physician. This facility is where the oral polio vaccine was distributed from and there was a booth location nearby.

Next, we moved to a slum area to visit a second booth – where I was allowed to administer the vaccine to a baby. We walked through the village and I shared the candy I had brought to encourage the children coming out. So many beautiful faces and smiles and so much filth and poverty all around. The houses were literally straw and mud huts with plastic garbage bag roofs. There is one well for the entire area and this village did have a small rapidly moving creek (polluted green water) running nearby.

We passed a snake charmer and I asked if the snakes really came up out of the basket. Two charmers came out of their huts, opened their wicker baskets containing the Cobra snakes and begin playing on elaborately decorated flutes. Up came the snakes to look around and the villagers all crowded around cheering.

Most of the children had already received the vaccine – we could tell by the ink marking on their little fingers, but we did find one or two here and there and helped administering the drops.
During the following "mop-up" days, we walked with a health care worker door to door and located a day care center where five children had not been immunized. Our fair skin and my blond hair first frightened the kids, but I was able to encourage participation by getting down on the floor and immunized the children.

The next day, we walked to approximately 40 homes and checked almost 75 children. The terrain was mountainous and it was raining. We found NO children who had not been immunized on the 11th. This was great news for the local NID effort.

Martha Reinbold, member of RC of Eagle River, Alaska

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Immunization Activities in Chandigarh

We spent the immunization days in city of Chandigarh, capital of Punjab, where eight polio cases were identified last year out of 667 nationwide.

I was very impressed with the level of professionalism and commitment on the Indian side. People were just phenomenal. The local health workers and volunteers were well prepared and efficient and very receptive to our assistance. They were happy to have us there and willingly included us in their work. It really felt like a team effort.

During the 'mop-up' phase, our team visited a train station because it is thought that polio moves around with migrant workers. Local high-school students were helping families with small children off the train and bringing them to the immunization booth. We would have missed some children if those students weren't helping out.

Going house to house, a man with a loadspeaker sang popular songs to attract attention. Then, between songs he called on people to bring in their children. He was very effective.

India has made tremendous progress in containing the poliovirus. Out of 667 cases of wild polio last year, 90% are confined to the States of Bihar (61) and Uttar Pradesh (540).

The fight against polio is not an Indian problem. It is a world problem. It belongs to all of us. India is simply one of the battle lines. If we don’t stop it in India, we’ll have it in California. We have to stay on top of it. If we don't we'll have lost 20 years of work.
To view more photos from our NID trip in India, please visit:

Jon Deisher, Eagle River, Alaska
Past President of RC of Anchorage

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Story from the Frontline

I came to India to see how Rotary fits in with the incredibly massive undertaking of immunizing 172 million children under the age of 5 for the second time this year. Last year they had to immunize on 8 different occasions because the children have many other systemic problems going on and the live polio vaccine can’t stay in their little stomachs long enough to work.

On the NID day I observed Indian health workers from local neighborhoods who knew, identified and found all of the children that fit the target age category. When we talk of ‘neighborhoods’ they are not anything like what we associate with at home. A neighborhood in India could range from a series of one room ‘apartments’, with or without electricity or running water to plastic bag or tar paper shacks in the mud with open sewers. The issues in India are massive.

Where my team was located the local Rotarians found being active on this endeavor difficult due to their business responsibilities. During the initial push years ago, local Rotarians assisted more. Our fellow Rotarians are tired, but by having visitors from the U.S. come over to help, not monitor, I think I have helped, perhaps in a little way, to encourage the local Rotarians to get back involved and be a part of history by assisting the workers on the ground again in these last efforts to eradicate polio.

I am proud to be a Rotarian and witness to the ongoing efforts of Polio eradication.

Rotary in the News!

Anchorage Daily News (Alaska)
February 20, 2007
Voice of the Times

Alaska Volunteers join Polio Battle

Fourteen Alaskans flew to India last week to help in the ongoing battle to wipe polio off the planet. The 14 - all members of Alaska Rotary clubs - were part of a 30-member team from 10 states and Sweden that helped immunize children against the crippling disease. The Rotary volunteers paid their own way and spent four days going house-to-house in remote Indian villages administering oral vaccine to children under the age of 5.
Rotary International has taken on the impossible-sounding mission of wiping polio from the planet. But since the project started in 1985, new cases of the disease have dropped from 350,000 children a year to just 2,000 last year.
Rotarians have chipped in $616 million for the effort, including $72 million for India, one of the few remaining places where the disease continues to strike.

The Alaska Rotarians are Alison Bell, Bob Weel, Don Black, former Anchorage City Manager Harry Kieling, Howard Zatkin, Jane Little, Jon Deisher, Judy Doyon, Martha Reinbold, Michael Jeffery, Rebecca Deisher, Renee Stewart, Tania Deisher and Toni Holmes.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

National Immunization Days in India

On February 11, India kicks off their next round of immunization activities for polio eradication. Leaders Dave Groner (Michigan) and Ann Lee Hussey (Maine) are with a team of thirty that hail from a mix of geographical areas - Alaska, Colorado, Virginia, Michigan, Illinois, Florida, California, Hawaii, Maine, Canada and Sweden. The team has spent the past two days in Delhi receiving updates and briefings on the current status of the polio eradication program in India from the World Health Organization office as well as Rotary International's PolioPlus office. This has been in preparation for their upcoming participation in NID activities in the north of Uttar Pradesh and in the state of Uttaranchal. The team will be divided into five groups when they travel to their homestay visits over the next two days to the cities of Yamunangar, Chandigarh, Dehradun, Roorkee and Haridwar. Members will work at the immunization booths on the 11th and work with the local health departments in the door-to-door follow-up on the 12th and 13th.

In preparation the team has also been visiting Rotary Clubs in Delhi and viewing their projects, visiting schools geared toward integration of handicapped children, and a local hospital offering corrective surgery to polio patients.

We have learned that the challenges facing the eradication program in India are the high population number, the high population density, malnutrition, lack of clean water, lack of sanitary systems, stomach viruses that challenge the children's immune system regularly interfering with absorption of the vaccine, corrupt bureaucracy at the lower level, complacency and lack of interest after battling the polio virus for so many years. India is the only place in the world where all of the above challenges are together in one place.

We have also learned that there appears to be a cycle spiking an outbreak and spread of polio every four years. The good news is that each spike is smaller than the last and each low count of polio cases in the three years following, is smaller than the previous three year lows. Progress is being made and there is an optimism that the polio virus can be eradicated from India within the next two years or less. The use of the monovalent vaccine in certain hotbed areas of polio outbreaks curbs the spread by producing stronger immunity faster.

Our team is anxious to get to work. The state of Uttaranchal reported 13 polio cases last year as opposed to one the year before. We look forward to being a part of stopping the spread of such a crippling disease. We are anxious to lend our help to local Rotarians and local health workers and will work as ambassadors for the Polio Eradication Initiative. It is our hope that we can renew enthusiasm for the program in the areas where we travel and let India know of the support they have in other areas of the world.
Together we will work for a polio free India!

Ann Lee Hussey

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Dennis Massengill

I hope this Thanksgiving finds all of you wonderful people well. You are doing great things for the world. Give Kathy Branham our best from Dennis and Pam.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

National Immunization Day in Niger

Posted by Rotarian Ann Lee

Our team of 15 arrived safe and sound in Niamey on Tuesday. We were met at the airport by Gaston Kaba, the PolioPlus Director of Niger and several Rotarians and Rotaractors. A brief drive and we were at the hotel. After a hot shower, a good meal and friendly talk we all retreated to our rooms to catch up on the time change and 15 hour journey. This morning, Wednesday, the team met with Dr. Alassoum Zeidou, the Head of Niamey Urban Community to determine where our teams would be most useful in the immunization days ahead. The team leaders had previously divided the 15 members into teams of two (one team of three). With that list we determined our distribution throughout Niamey. We will cover the three Medical Districts in Niamey spreading inside and outside the city boundaries as well as past the Kennedy Bridge along the border between Niger and Nigeria.

After lunch, team leaders, Dave Groner and Ann Lee Hussey traveled with Gaston Kaba to visit the chairwomen of the three Districts. The team leaders for Districts 1 & 2, Tanya Wolff-Molson and Keith Koke accompanied us along with three Rotaractors. Each Rotaractor has been assigned to help us on our days of immunizing. We observed the chairwomen educating and training the local health workers. Of most interest was a skit they performed as a tool to teach the workers how to deal with resistant families. They demonstrated how having volunteers from North America with their white skin, put resistant fathers at ease with administering the vaccine to their children. It was an education for us all. The Niamey people are joyful and friendly and the social interaction we shared with the health workers was a special experience. The National Immunization Days are nationwide in Niger for the next four days, Thursday thru Sunday. The team will immunize in the urban areas of their assigned District for the first three days and the fourth day will be spent in the more rural regions of their District.

In addition to the polio drops, team members and health workers will also be giving Vitamin A to the children to give a boost to the children's immune systems and work to fight avoidable blindness. The biggest challenge in Niger exists along the Nigerian border where a mass transit of Nigerians from Nigeria and Nigeriens from Niger occurs daily. Niger's aim is to maintain the pressure on Nigeria to continually improve upon their immunization program. Niger was removed from the list of endemic countries in 2005. It has experienced 11 paralytic polio cases so far in 2006, all importation cases from the polio virus circulating in Nigeria. We are grateful on the eve of our Thanksgiving Day to also be on the eve of immunization days in Niger. As we expressed to the health-care workers - "together we can do it." Thanks to all the Rotary Clubs and the Rotary Foundation contributing to make immunization days for polio a reality.

"Hope lies in dreams, in imagination and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality." Jonas Salk