The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) was formed in 1988 with the collaboration of Rotary International, the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF, Centres for Disease Control (CDC) and in more recent times the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
While this collaboration has been one of the most significant combined forces in the history of humanity it does not always mean this collaboration happens at the grassroots level in each and every country.
This was the case in South Sudan until very recently.
The new country of South Sudan has had to face more than the 40+°C daily temperatures. The Rotary Club of Juba was founded here 16 March 2010 just before independence and just like the rest of South Sudan it is growing in confidence and service to the community.
The path for Rotary in South Sudan has not been easy for the hardworking Rotary founders here. It has also taken time for the Ministry of Health and other Government departments to recognise the significant contribution Rotary is making in the community for the country.
Thanks to the facilitation and training from WHO and UNICEF South Sudan Rotary is active for the first time in South Sudan in the polio National Immunisation Days (NIDs) with a plan to support meningococcal vaccine launch and more health promotion initiatives.
WHO organised for Rotary Club members to team up with the State Ministry of Health to join the polio NID campaign.
Four willing Rotary volunteers, each busy in their private lives, came together with specialists from WHO and UNICEF to be trained in administering vaccines, finger marking and tallying to join the nationwide three-day polio NID campaign to immunise the 3.35 million children under 5 years old in South Sudan.
The volunteers first met with the head of the EPI program for Juba County and State coordinator for the NID. From here the Rotarians were trained by WHO field specialist and UNICEF communications specialist and soon hit the road in their own transport to one of the outer regions of Juba city which has grown rapidly in the recent past and where missed children were recorded from the last polio NID round in February.
In the end the Rotary volunteers along with WHO representatives vaccinated 198 children in under two hours. We did suggest the Rotarians vaccinate each other to make it over 200 vaccinated but they were sure that they had followed routine immunisation as a child and were fully immunised.
Though it was just one morning it was a significant step towards Rotary’s participation and recognition in polio eradication in South Sudan. From here WHO in South Sudan hopes to train over 150 Rotarians, Rotaract and Interact members in immunisation surveillance and communication and get involved in not only the remaining two NIDs for 2015 but also more health initiatives.
To follow the landmark collaboration of the GPEI at international level in 1988 it is wonderful to see this still occurring today for each community so the world’s most vulnerable people gain from a mix of technical support from WHO and the commitment of the worldwide service organisation in Rotary.
Photos from the event can be seen and downloaded here if you wish: http://bit.ly/1ycxXMw