PP Raymond Ciriaco
District 3810 Polio Coordinator
The Global Polio Eradication initiative has helped reduce polio cases by more than 99.9 percent since Rotary joined as funding partners. We cannot afford to let our efforts go to waste – the global pandemic due to Covid-19 should not deter us from finishing what we have started. Our continued efforts towards polio eradication should lead us towards finally wiping this disease which has crippled millions, off from the face of the earth. If we accomplish this sooner – that will make polio next to smallpox that we have eradicated due to concerted vaccination efforts.
We must eradicate polio from the last two countries where it remains endemic (Afghanistan and Pakistan) if we are to keep all other countries polio-free. I have been to both countries and moving around Afghanistan or Pakistan could mean putting our own lives at risk – and we have had field people who were killed in action. After returning home safely, I too have had to ask myself, why is this so important? If there is anything this current pandemic is teaching us, it is that: “Nobody is safe, unless everybody is safe”. If we stop our eradication efforts today – polio can spread once more and in 10 years paralyze as many as 200,000 children each year again.
This Rotary year, when Incoming Governor Robert Koa asked me to continue serving as District Polio Coordinator – I readily agreed. This is something personal. I have spent more than 15 years of my professional life in the healthcare industry and have continued to work alongside my growing network of friends among doctors, nurses, hospital staff and pharmaceutical industry people. My other advocacy is that of peace and conflict resolution and prevention which has enabled me to visit our Asian counterparts as we monitor elections in Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
My primary task is to sustain awareness for our End Polio Campaign which will clear the path for all our disease prevention and eradication efforts which includes Covid-19. Polio will soon become the second disease next to smallpox which we have eradicated.
We have had to hurdle through obstacles in pulling off such a campaign in the middle of a pandemic so we had to take extra efforts to ensure our safety protocols are observed: wear mask, shield, maintain physical distancing but we managed last year with the coordinated efforts along the 10 other districts here in the Philippines under our Zone 10A End Polio Coordinator PDG Mary Anne Alcordo-Solomon of Rotary District 3860. We will continue to work hand in hand with WHO, UNICEF and Red Cross to offer our support in the global immunization efforts not just for polio but also for other diseases such as measles, rubella & dengue which continues to plague Filipino children.
Let us put the “period” on polio to punctuate it once and for all – and let us continue our effort to eradicate diseases where vaccines are already made available. So, watch out Covid-19 (you are next).