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Rotary’s eradication of polio continues

David Andrews is a charter member of the Rotary Club of Oshawa-Parkwood and a well-known local proponent of Rotary’s efforts to eradicate polio worldwide. World Polio Day will once again be recognized in Durham Region and across the world on Oct. 24.

What is polio?  Polio, or poliomyelitis, is a potentially deadly infectious disease that most commonly affects children under the age of five.

The virus spreads from person to person, typically through contaminated water. It can then attack the nervous system, and in some instances, lead to paralysis. Although there is no cure, there is a safe and effective vaccine.

Rotary has helped immunize more than 2.5 billion children in 122 countries. So far, Rotary has contributed more than $1.8 billion toward eradicating the disease worldwide.

Only two countries are still reporting new cases of polio – Pakistan and Afghanistan. In August, Nigeria was declared free of the “wild” virus having had no cases for three years.

One of Rotary’s partners is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Bill Gates, co-founder and co-chair of the Foundation, says “The world’s progress in fighting polio might be one of the best-kept secrets in global health.”

That is why each year on Oct. 24, the more than 35,000 member clubs of Rotary hold a World Polio Day to remind all Rotarians of the successes in polio eradication and the challenges that remain.

David Andrews of Oshawa is a local “man-behind-the-scenes”, making sure that the World Polio Day event in Durham is large, relevant, and respectful.

Andrews says, “In 1985, Rotary launched the PolioPlus program. Some of our members were at the convention in Philadelphia where it was announced. This is a big deal for the health of the children of the world – a massive initiative to have volunteers go to the most dangerous and inhospitable corners of the world to give the precious drops of vaccine. Rotary and its partners have reduced reported cases by 99.9 per cent – we are this close.”

Born in Oshawa, Andrews graduated from York University and then worked 32 years at General Motors in public relations, vehicle sales distribution and ACDelco sales and marketing. He was a charter member of the Rotary Club of Oshawa-Parkwood and served as president for three terms. He also chaired the Rotary Club’s Skate-a-thon in Oshawa, which ran for 32 consecutive years – the longest running Skate-a-thon in Canada.

Andrew’s devotion to Rotary is on display in the time he gives every day to the Oshawa club and to the 55 clubs in District 7070 through his activities in public relations.

On Oct. 24, the World Polio Day Event in Durham will be streamed live from the Durham College Global Classroom from 5 to 9 p.m. The link will be published on the Facebook page of the Rotary Club of Oshawa-Parkwood.

Proclamations from civic officials will be presented to Durham’s 10 Rotary Clubs. Dr. Bob Scott, former chair of Rotary’s Global PolioPlus program will speak via video to Dr. Tunji Funsho, Rotary’s chair of PolioPlus in Nigeria.

In the evening, the CN Tower, the “Toronto” sign in Nathan Phillips Square, and even Niagara Falls will be lit up in red, white, and yellow, the colours of Rotary’s End Polio Now campaign.

“Polio eradication is our promise to the children of the world and I want to keep that promise” says Andrews.  And with the commitment of him and the many other “People of Action” in Rotary, there can be no doubt that this pledge will be fulfilled.