The Paralympics are fast approaching and with 2.2 million tickets sold out of the 2.5 million available and with 165 countries competing, 19 more than in Beijing, it is set to be the biggest and most successful Paralympics yet.
One of the athletes hoping to take part is Anne Wafula-Strike, a phenomenal wheelchair sprint athlete and formermember of team GB.Anne was Born in Mihuu Kenya and came to the UK in April 2000, started racing in 2002 and in 2004 became the first ever Kenyan to represent her country in her chosen sport. Following a successful application for British citizenship in 2006, Anne became a member of Team GB.
Anne's story is an incredible inspiration, and shows how her drive, focus, talent and belief have helped her to break records and live out her sporting dreams on the greatest possible stage. However, her life was irrevocably changed at the age of two when she contracted polio.This disability has not hindered her, and she has risen up to the challenge of paralysis to become an Olympic athlete. Unfortunately though, the same cannot be said for everyone who contracts this terrible disease.
In extreme cases, polio can cause paralysis in the limbs but can affect the lungs and make it difficult to breath, and in these without urgent medical care those affected can die. Polio can destroy a person’s life by preventing them from getting jobs or being able to start a family.
Decades ago, polio was a real risk to thousands of children in the UK.However, thanks to comprehensive immunization it is a thing of the past in the UK, proving that with the right funding and enough political will, we can prevent and eradicate polio.
In the 1980s Rotary International had the vision to seek the end of polio once and for all.They were the first to believe that children everywhere no longer needed to live their lives with a disability because of a disease we know how to prevent. Their campaign moved millions of people across the globe and inspired governments everywhere to give to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). The success was phenomenal. Since 1988 the number of polio-endemic countries has reduced from 125 to just 3, and the number of polio cases has reduced by 99% , leaving only 1% left for us to tackle.
Progress so far has been made by ensuring that sufficient vaccines, which effectively prevent polio are available, as well as plenty of health workers and volunteers trained to deliver them. But these measures are expensive, and GPEI now needs at least $240m by January 2013 to just continue operating. Filling this funding gap is critical because having polio anywhere means we the threat of polio being everywhere.
Ending polio means ensuring no child has to live a life of disability from a disease we know how to prevent.but means that the tools and tactics that are developed to give polio vaccinations to children in some of the poorest urban slums, and some of the most remote rural regions will be available to use for other vaccination programs, leaving a positive global legacy beyond simply polio.
The UK has been a world leader in the fight against polio but our funding commitment ends this year.As we head into autumn, we still don’t know if or when the government might announce further funding for GPEI and we don’t know how much is being considered.Therefore we’re calling on people to email Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell MP and call on him to urgently confirm the UK’s future funding contribution in the battle against polio and to at least match 2012 levels of funding.
The Paralympics are a chance to admire the progress and achievement of amazing athletes from across the world, but it is also a chance to admire the amazing progress we have made in the fight to end polio.As such we’re delighted to be partnering with Rotary International to support an English Garden Party event they are holding on Thursday the 30th of August to celebrate the opening of the Paralympics, and to meet with some of the participating athletes who have been afflicted by polio.
The event will act as an important moment to remember that despite the amazing achievements of so many Paralympians with polio, it is a disease that we know how to prevent no one need endure it in the future.With only 1% of cases left, now is the time to act to end polio for good.
It has been my full-time passion and mission, since arriving in Canada three months ago, to build public support for polio eradication among Canadians from all walks of life. I started with very little in the way of networks or contacts, in a country I hadn’t visited in more than six years, and in cities in which I had never laid foot.
The tools at my disposal were a couple of contacts in Ottawa and Toronto, a bunch of old friends from previous travels, an engaging presentation and the desire to see a polio-free world!
Like many grassroots movements, this one started with emails – lots of them – trying to make contact with anyone involved in the political, health, aid, development, advocacy and community engagement sectors. Over time, through engaging with Rotary International and RESULTS Canada, along with some very generous friends (and friends of friends), I was able to start spreading The End of Polio campaign.
Since arriving in Quebec City on the 20th of May, I have travelled through Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary, Kamloops, Vancouver, Victoria, back to Toronto and all around. In that time I have given 60 presentations to 2300 people at a mix of schools, Rotary clubs, organizations and community groups – each learning about the global eradication of polio and how to be a part of the movement to see it gone for everyone, everywhere and forever.
Over the past couple of months, I have been incredibly inspired by what this campaign has been able to achieve, thanks to incredible volunteers and people standing up and taking notice of this issue. The End of Polio campaign in Canada has grown far beyond the efforts of just one person to involve passionate advocates all over this country. The power of people to connect is clear when you look at what we have done so far. We have attracted all kinds of print and television media, linked with key organisations and we’ve spread our message to schools, community groups (including Rotary clubs) and youth camps, as well as people on the street. Our supporters now include MPs from all sides of the political spectrum, a former Prime Minister, Government agencies, City Councillors, medical professionals and many more who are active in the movement to eradicate polio.
We are all very different, with different experiences and reasons to care, but the one thing that unites us is our passion for ending this debilitating disease.
This groundswell of public support has a point and a purpose – to convince world leaders that they should give the Global Polio Eradication Initiative their full backing. And this September presents the perfect opportunity for them to do so. The United Nations Secretary General is hosting an important event on polio eradication while world leaders are in New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly. We are working hard to convince Prime Minister Stephen Harper to attend this event, while other grassroots advocates in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the United States work to engage their leaders.
I am continuously amazed by the generosity, commitment and efforts of those I meet along this advocacy journey throughout Canada. It is a wonderful thing to be a part of and I’m looking forward to the next few weeks leading up to the United Nations General Assembly!
Lauren O'Connor is Polio Communications Officer for the Global Poverty Project and works on The End of Polio campaign
Guess what? Angola has now passed more than 12 months without a single case of polio! Watch this video from UNICEF to see how Angola turned the tide against the disease:
This month it was officially confirmed that Angola had passed a year without a single case. The last of the pending samples have been tested and Angola’s most recent case was all the way back in July 2011.
Angola had originally been officially declared ‘polio-free’ in 2001, but had been struggling with re-established transmission since 2005. While the country will have to pass three years without a single case before it is officially declared ‘polio-free’ once more, this is fantastic progress…
And further proof that a world without polio is possible.
But most of all, it is a testament to the determination of the Angolan people to stamp out this disease once and for all. People from all walks of life have made this possible: the parents who allowed their children to be vaccinated, the volunteers who worked through the heat of the day to reach every child, the local leaders who inspired and motivated, and the Government who provided 89% of the program’s operational costs.
All of us here at The End of Polio campaign send our best wishes to everyone involved in ending the transmission of polio in Angola. Congratulations and keep up the good work!
Christoph Ziegenhardt is Coordinator of End the Cycle, an organisation that seeks to break the complex cycle between poverty and disability.
India recently celebrated the eradication of polio - a huge achievement by the Indian government and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative with their partners. 12 months without a case of polio in India for the first time in history is great news for future generations.
Globally, Polio is now 99% eradicated and there are only Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan where much work is needed to achieve the global goal of 100% eradication of polio. The Global Poverty Project’s The End of Polio Campaign is playing an important part in this, too – building a movement of people speaking up for funding for this important work.
But our focus on eradicating polio shouldn’t mean that we forget about those who live with permanent disability because they contracted polio some years ago... in fact, it is extremely important that we don’t forget about these people with disabilities, as they are often amongst the poorest and most marginalised people in developing countries.
I recently heard the story of 25 year old Mosua Islam, a young man from Bangladesh who lives with a disability caused by polio.
It struck me what a huge impact Polio had on his life.
Mosua in his story tells of how he mostly stayed in his house, just lying at home. Living with a disability, he recalls his childhood: “I went to the primary school nearby, to grade five, but when it was time to go to high school I couldn’t because it was too far, and I couldn’t crawl that far.” Getting to school in a rickshaw was too expensive and so he remembers “I couldn’t go to school anymore.”
Mosua says this, pretty matter-of-factly, but I think I would have been pretty devastated if I hadn’t been able to run around with friends, get to school and just simply enjoy life as a child.
I am disappointed when I see the exclusion of people with disability in places where disability and poverty meet. It shouldn’t be this way! Which is why I’m also excited about leading End the Cycle’s campaign promoting the human rights and empowerment of people with disabilities living in developing countries.
To educate and raise awareness of the cycle of poverty and disability, End the Cycle collected new stories, creating avenues for people like Mosua to tell their own stories in their own words.
The great thing is that for Mosua, empowerment, training and access to a mobility aid, which was provided by a local Disabled People’s Organisation, meant that he was able to start his own business. “Now I can go wherever and whenever I want, I can move around town as I wish. I feel good that I am not a beggar, and people feel happy that a man with a disability is doing business. I feel good about that.”
End the Cycle is pleased to have the Global Poverty Project partner with us in this task of ending the cycle of poverty and disability and creating an inclusive world for all people with disabilities.
To find out more about End the Cycle, watch more of our videos, and to sign up for the rights of people with disabilities, visit our website
Janice Nichols and her twin brother, Frankie, were in first grade when polio hit their town.In a rented cottage far away from others the Nichols family thought that they were safe from the epidemics that had begun downstate in 1916.As the numbers of polio cases increased families began to relocate but, fearing that New Yorkers could be contaminated, doctors had to inspect each person moving across state lines.“No one outside of the area wanted the kids,” Janice explains.
A few days after polio hit their town 8 kids from their class of 24 had been infected and 3, including Frankie, had passed.On the day that Frankie was buried Janice was admitted to the hospital with temporary paralysis.Soon after being allowed to go home Janice started an intensive regiment of physical therapy.At first Janice was unable to walk but physical therapy helped to retrain her muscles and assist her remaining nerve cells to take over for the cells that had been destroyed.“Most of us have a vivid memory of the first time we take a step,” Janice recalls “because I had private therapy at home I was much luckier than most kids; I didn’t have to go far away, and I didn’t go in just once a week.”Janice describes that she walked like a “little tin soldier” and that her father was determined that she “wouldn’t walk like a polio survivor”.
Janice predicts that she was able to survive polio because it had been detected early and because she received multiple vaccines to protect her the day after her twin brother was diagnosed.Since 1916 the global community has developed vaccines that are safer and more effective.In 1954 Dr. Salk produced a vaccine called IPV and Janice was one of the two million children participating in the trials.“They tried everything but nothing was going to make a dent and nothing remains to make a dent except vaccination,” Janice explains.
Polio has been eradicated in the United States since 1979 and cases around the world have been reduced by 99% since 1988.Polio is currently endemic in only Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.The very things that saved Janice’s life- quick detection, medical equipment, and physical therapy- are frequently unavailable in developing countries.“A couple of years ago they had an epidemic in the Republic of the Congo.There was a 40% mortality rate among infected young adults” which was largely because there was “no electricity, few iron lungs, and limited equipment,” Janice explains.
In 2003 Janice received an article about polio in the mail with encouragement from Michelle, her graduate school roommate, to share her polio story.Janice became a life-long advocate for polio eradication and dedicated four years to researching for her book about polio.Since 2007 she has had regular speaking engagements throughout North America.“I start my talk by telling about what happened in my suburb.Then I talk about the disease and the vaccines and what has happened as a result of the vaccine.Next I talk about what will happen to this world if we don’t get rid of this disease in the next couple years.When people realize what we’re up against they are more willing to donate,” Janice describes.