Help to eradicate crippling disease

Pupils from Ribblesdale High School and Rotarians at the now blooming crocus garden.
Pupils from Ribblesdale High School and Rotarians at the now blooming crocus garden.
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Rotarians are appealing for people to support a campaign which could help to eradicate a crippling and potentially fatal disease for good.

As part of Rotary’s Purple4Polio fundraising weekend, Clitheroe and Ribblesdale Rotary Clubs are displaying an Iron Lung – which many readers may remember from the 1950s being used locally by polio sufferers – on Clitheroe Market on Saturday, March 25th.

The Iron Lung which will be parked on Clitheroe Market and will be taken to local high schools.

The Iron Lung which will be parked on Clitheroe Market and will be taken to local high schools.

Every £1 donated during the event will immunise five children and will be matched with an additional £2 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, so £1 becomes £3.

Local Rotarians are also taking the message about polio eradication into local schools. Children will learn about the disease and have the opportunity to see the Iron Lung, mounted in a special display trailer.

Rotarians have thanked pupils at Ribblesdale High School in Clitheroe for helping to plant hundreds of purple crocuses, the symbol of Polio+, around a tree on the triangle of grass near Homebase on Whalley Road, Clitheroe, in autumn last year. These have now bloomed and the pupils recently revisited the site to see the fruits of their labour.

Polio is a crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease which Rotary has been raising money and working hard to eradicate globally since 1985.

Purple crocuses highlight the Rotary Club's campaign.

Purple crocuses highlight the Rotary Club's campaign.

In 1985, when Rotary began its pledge, there were 125 polio endemic countries. In 2016 there are now just two countries with endemic polio - Pakistan and Afghanistan.

During the 1950s there were many cases of polio in the UK and several in the Ribble Valley and surrounding towns such as Blackburn and Burnley.

Rotary has helped immunise 2.5 billion children globally since 1985. Polio mainly affects children under the age of five so the immunisation focus is on children.

Local Rotarians have visited countries such as India to help with the “purple pinkie” immunisation programme. A child’s finger is dipped in purple dye to show a child has been immunised and therefore avoids the need for a second dose of the Salk vaccine.

Way back in 1988, the Clitheroe Advertiser and Times reported on local Rotarians raising £900 in funds for Polio+ – some of those Rotarians, including Richard Dugdale and Roger Hirst, are still doing the same fundraising to this day. Richard and Roger appear on the 1988 press cutting.

Also, Ribblesdale Rotarians Richard Dugdale and Jeff Cowling, along with Padiham Rotarian Dr Paul Wright, visited Lucknow, Rajasthan, India, in 2007 to help dispense Polio Salk vaccine to 950,000 children in two weeks.

Polio cases across the world have reduced by 99.9% from 350,000 cases in 1998 to just 74 in 2015. Rotary’s aim is to make polio the second human disease to be eradicated worldwide in history, smallpox being the first.

“We are closer than we have ever been to eradicating polio, but the job must be finished,” said Rotarian Sandy Morrison, polio eradication group chairman. “Although many countries are no longer polio-endemic, they are still at risk of the disease returning, making continued immunisation programmes vitally important.

“Failure to eradicate polio could result in as many as 200,000 new cases worldwide every year within a decade. That’s why Rotarians, governments, non-governmental organisations, The Gates Foundation and the public are working together to raise the additional $1.5 billion needed to eradicate polio for good.

“Together we can beat polio. Remember £1 donated on Clitheroe Market on March 25th will immunise five children. With the help of the The Gates Foundation, making your £1 into £3 we can immunise 15 children.

“We hope to see you on March 25th between 9am and 3pm and thank you for all your past donations.”