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Alabama Rotarians Join the Fight Against Polio in Mexico

Rotary International's theme for this year is "Making a Difference". For the last forty years Rotary has done just that by helping eradicate polio around the world. Forty years ago polio ravaged every corner of the Earth. Even after the discovery of the vaccine to stop the polio virus in 1955, millions around the world were still exposed to the crippling disease that primarily attacks children, leaving some paralyzed or causing death. Forty years ago 300,000 cases a year were reported in100 different countries. Because of the infectious nature of the disease, anyone exposed to the disease, knowingly or unknowingly, could travel half way around the world and carry it with them and potentially create new outbreaks everywhere.

The only sure way to prevent the disease from spreading was to eradicate it from the face of the earth. Forty years ago one million Rotarians took up the challenge. Through their time, talents and resources, Rotarians immunized children from age six months to six years of age around the globe. One country after another became polio free by their vigilant efforts.

As of today, only three countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan and Nigeria still have active cases. But, in developing countries, where sanitation issues persist (since the disease is spread by contaminated fecal matter entering the water supply) the threat is all too real.

Our neighbors to the south in Mexico are a potential source. Last month 50 plus Rotarians from Alabama, Louisiana, Arizona, Nevada, California and Canada mad the trek from Phoenix, AZ to Caborca, Mexico to support the cause.

Over 500 children from age six months to six years were immunized in a small impoverished town on the seacoast. Desemboque had little electricity and no fresh water until Rotary recently built wells and a water tower to provide clean water for this community of 1,000 or so residents. The local Rotary Club in Caborca provided transportation, great food and fellowship and a security detail to insure our safe passage. One member of their Club, Martin Mendez who oversees a pediatric medical clinic in Caborca, and had the inspiration to join forces with the U.S. Clubs to aid these rural hamlets.

To show the importance of this cause, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged $250 million to make sure we continue to strive to complete this monumental task.

Rotary celebrated its birthday on February 23 during the time of this visit. What a wonderful present to the people of Mexico by being a gift to the world.


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