U.S. Rotarians join counterparts in Pakistan in polio eradication effort

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Two U.S. Rotarians and their wives got a firsthand look at Pakistan’s effort to eradicate polio when they participated in the country’s National Immunization Days (NIDs) in October.

“It was a moving experience to work alongside our Rotarian friends and hosts in giving the polio drops,” says Steve Puderbaugh, a member of the Rotary Club of Raymond Area, New Hampshire. “It was easy to see that the children we were trying to save from this disease could be our children and grandchildren.”

Puderbaugh chairs Rotary District 7870’s Group Study Exchange subcommittee and led a GSE team to Australia in 2008. He and his wife, Deb, and Past District Governor Joe Pratt and his wife, Lori, took part in the NIDs in response to an appeal from a District 3272 GSE team that visited the U.S. district in May.

The four, who made the trip at their own expense, helped immunize children at a hospital in Lahore, Punjab, and at a “polio camp” run by the Rotary Club of Lahore Jinnah. They also joined in a polio awareness rally sponsored by the Rotary Club of Lahore Shaheen. Puderbaugh says the rally featured about 150 people who had colorful banners and placards, along with decorated vehicles and a police escort, and “certainly got attention from people on the street and several media outlets.”

In addition, the U.S. group participated in a World Polio Day seminar in Lahore, which included Aziz Memon, Pakistan PolioPlus Committee chair; Pervez Ahsan Khan, governor of District 3272; and representatives from the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

“We were honored to be there alongside the Pakistani Rotarians in the battle to control polio,” Puderbaugh says. “We were also able to share information on how our American clubs and districts are still working to raise funds and awareness of polio, in spite of not having it in our country since 1979. It was very moving to meet people with polio.”

In Faisalabad, the group immunized children at a hospital, and Puderbaugh was interviewed by a local TV station about his group’s visit to Pakistan. They also saw a skit staged by university students on the challenges facing those working to immunize all Pakistani children against polio in the face of many challenges.