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The Rotary Club of Plimmerton

POLIO NATIONAL IMMUNISATION DAY (NID) IN INDIA

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Firozabad is a slum area 40km out of Agra in Uttar Pradesh, and a 20-strong team from District 9940, led by ADG Kevin Stratton, participated in a Polio Immunisation Programme from 9-11 January, 2009.

Several recent cases of Polio in Firozabad indicated the need to return to this part of India.

A rally on Friday evening saw us in our yellow “Polio” vests and red caps, along with several Rotaractors and Rotarians from the Rotary Club of Agra Taj Mahal. We were joined by an elderly local polio advocate in a rickshaw with a loud hailer proclaiming the immunization day to follow. Although we could not understand his spoken Hindi, the slogan “Hi Hi Polio, Bye Bye Polio” was very clear and the local children who followed us in droves joined in the chant. We walked a few kilometers on pathways through the slum area passing out leaflets and saying the word “Polio” which all understood.

One young lad who must have been in his mid teens (if the beginning of a beard was any indication) with a gorgeous smile, accompanied me for the whole distance, like a little guardian.

About 65% of the population is illiterate, so we were hopeful that word of mouth would assist us to spread the message also.

The next day, Saturday, we arrived back at Forizabad, divided up into teams of 4 accompanied by a couple of Rotaract volunteers and a UNICEF Volunteer who lived in the area, and by various means of transportation (rickshaw, tuk-tuk, motorbike or on foot) went to the clinics that were scattered around the settlement. There we helped to administer polio vaccine drops and also went door to door with the UNICEF Volunteer to convince those who had previously chosen not to have their children vaccinated to change their minds. One mother who was adamant in her refusal changed her mind after we had “spoken” with her, and she brought her family along to the clinic to receive the polio drops and other vaccinations. She was very happy with her decision and we left feeling very rewarded.

The living conditions that we encountered were beyond belief and description, with deep open drains running along the concrete pathways, into which went all manner of waste water and rubbish. The paths were crowded with animals such as cows, dogs, goats and chooks, various means of transportation such as bicycles and hand carts loaded with all manner of merchandise, women washing clothes, and other residents going about their daily business.

Despite the dust and dirt everyone was reasonably well dressed with clean clothes, and the children invariably had a smile for us.

On the third day, Sunday, we returned and did a mop up round, attending different clinics, but also going from house to house to give polio drops to newborn babies.

During the time that the late Randall Shaw was president of the Rotary Club of Plimmerton (1992-93) Past RI World President Cliff Dochterman’s theme was “Real happiness is helping others”.  That was the motivation behind the planning for our group to visit India and do something positive and tangible for the final thrust to eradicate polio from the world.

Jenny Shaw

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