Nigeria Goes One Year Without a Case of Polio

January 24, 2015 marked six months with no new cases of wild polio reported in Nigeria, the only remaining endemic country in Africa. While this milestone marks a major achievement for global polio eradication efforts, we must remain cautiously optimistic.

Nigeria’s total polio case count for 2014 remains 6, compared to 53 in 2013. The most recent case had onset of paralysis on July 24, 2014 in the southern Kano state. Polio case numbers in Africa decreased by 92 percent between 2013 and 2014. In 2013, outbreaks in central Africa, the Horn of Africa and Nigeria, left the entire continent at risk of polio

“Now we must be more vigilant than ever, as our progress is fragile,” says Dr. Tunji Funsho, Rotary’s PolioPlus chair for Nigeria. One of Nigeria’s greatest challenges in the eradication efforts was reaching children in hard to access areas and low levels of campaign engagement. The Expert Review Committee on Polio Eradication and Routine Immunization, the country’s technical advisory body, met this month in order to review current progress and to discuss what next steps will ensure a polio-free Nigeria.

Nigeria’s progress is at risk unless polio is ended in the other two countries where it also remains endemic: Afghanistan and Pakistan. Until polio is stopped in the remaining endemic areas, all countries need to maintain sensitive surveillance and high immunization rates to rapidly detect any importation of the poliovirus and minimize its impact. Now that 99 percent of the world’s population lives in regions certified polio-free, the goal of eradication is closer than ever.

Read more about polio eradication efforts in Nigeria at www.polioeradication.org.

Rotary End Polio Now

NJ Rotary Club Awards Scholarships To Local Students

The Bergen Highlands/Ramsey Rotary Club is pleased to announce the recipients of the “John Royle Rotary Scholarships,” 2015 college scholarships for local students.

The scholarships are awarded annually to graduating seniors who are going on to higher education and who reside in the area served by the Bergen Highlands/Ramsey Rotary Club (Allendale, Mahwah, Ramsey, Saddle River and Upper Saddle River). They are based on need, ability and contributions to school and community. The scholarships consist of $1,250 at the beginning of each recipient’s freshman year and another $1,250 at the beginning of the sophomore year.

Pictured l to r: BH/R Rotary Club scholarship winners Robert Sartori of Ramsey (Ramapo College), Sarah Sartori of Ramsey (The College of New Jersey), BH/R president Kevin O’Rourke, BH/R scholarship chair John Royle, Nicholas Venturini of Ramsey (University of Virginia), and Kevin Himber of Mahwah (Northeastern University).
Not pictured: Fallon Kelley of Mahwah (University of South Carolina), Casey Holm of Mahwah (Montclair State University), Caitlyn Martinez of Ramsey (University of Rhode Island), and Victoria Thomas of Ramsey (Syracuse University).

Rotary Club Joins In Annual ‘Stars & Stripes’ Game

The Bergen Highlands/Ramsey Rotary Club joined Ramsey’s Independence Day Celebration by participating in the annual “Stars and Stripes” softball game, held each year to benefit VFW Post #12148. The friendly game, held at Finch Park in Ramsey, saw Rotarians from BH/R take the field along with members of the Ramsey EMO and the local UNICO to raise funds for the Post. A fine time was had by all, with perfect weather and warm camaraderie ruling the day.

The Bergen Highlands/Ramsey Rotary Club has been supporting educational and charitable needs in Allendale, Mahwah, Ramsey, Saddle River and Upper Saddle River since 1952. The Club provides college scholarships for local students and funding for local causes such as the Center for Food Action, the DACCKS Group, the Emmanuel Cancer Foundation, and Habitat for Humanity. Members run the children’s rides at Ramsey Day and Mahwah Day, with proceeds going toward the Club’s charitable activities. As part of Rotary International, the Club also raises funds to support educational, medical and sanitary facilities in Nicaragua and Haiti, as well as cornea transplant and dialysis facilities in India and disaster relief in Nepal.

Rotary, ShelterBox organizing aid for quake victims in Nepal

Rescue missions and emergency aid continue to arrive in Nepal after a massive earthquake hit the country on 25 April, killing at least 7,500 people and injuring thousands more. The 7.8-magnitude quake, the worst to hit Nepal in more than 80 years, has affected 8 million people in the country’s 39 districts, including 1.4 million needing food assistance, according to government officials.

Rotary partner ShelterBox is sending a response team to the affected areas to determine immediate needs. Because of previous disasters in Nepal, the group already has tents and other nonfood items ready for deployment.

The Rotary Club of The Palisades, which represents the towns of Edgewater, Leonia and Palisades Park, has donated two ShelterBox units, which can be tracked via the club’s website www.palisades-rotary.org/ShelterBox.

ROTARY RELEASES $40.3 MILLION TO END POLIO WORLDWIDE

The continued fight to stamp out polio will receive an additional $40.3 million boost from Rotary in support of immunization activities and research to be carried out by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. The funds will be used by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF for polio immunization, surveillance and research activities in ten countries, as well as to provide technical assistance to additional countries in Africa.

The funding commitment comes at a critical time as Nigeria – the last polio-endemic country in Africa – approaches one-year since its last case of polio, which occurred in Kano State on 24 July, 2014. If the current progress continues, WHO may remove Nigeria from the list of polio-endemic countries as early as September. In addition to the notable progress in Nigeria, no new cases of polio have been reported anywhere in Africa since August 2014.

Experts do, however, strongly caution that it is too soon to fully celebrate. Nigeria needs to go an additional two years without polio to be certified polio-free. Funding and support for high-quality immunization campaigns and surveillance activities will be key to sustaining current gains.

The only two other polio-endemic countries, Pakistan and Afghanistan, continue to experience hurdles in polio eradication campaigns including inaccessibility to children and security. Last year, Pakistan saw an outbreak which resulted in more than 300 cases, the highest number in the country in more than a decade. As a result, Pakistan accounted for almost 90% of the world’s cases. However, there has been improvement in 2015. Cases are down nearly 70% over this same time in 2014.

Progress against polio, while significant, remains fragile. Rotary’s funds will support immunization efforts in: $9.9 million in Nigeria; $12.2 million in Pakistan and $2.3 million in Afghanistan.

Additional funds will support efforts to keep other at-risk countries polio-free. The grants include $1 million, Cameroon: $900,000, Chad; $2 million, Democratic Republic of Congo; $1.1 million, Ethiopia; $1 million, Niger; $1.5 million, Somalia; and $1.5, South Sudan. In addition, grants totaling $5.8 million will provide surveillance in African and Eastern Mediterranean regions. Grants to Africa alone total $19 million. In total, Rotary has donated $688.5 million to support polio eradication efforts in Africa over the past thirty years.

For more information, please see Rotary’s official End Polio Now website at EndPolio.org.