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