Paying it forward

The international Rotary has pledged to raise 250 million dollars in the fight against Polio, almost matching the 300 million dollars that billionaire Bill Gates has donated in the effort. “The Rotarian’s model is ‘Service Above Self’ and we are close to getting the amount we promised because all the money we raise goes to the project,” Ezra, whose district has 4,000 members, said. He says the efforts of the Rotarians’ include focusing on health, water and education in addition to Polio.

 

The visiting Rotarians were divided in to two groups, each of whom visited different parts of Ethiopia where they took part in the polio vaccination campaign of kids under five years of age on 20 and 21 October. A group of 20 went to Assosa, the capital city of Benshangul Gumuz regional state, located some 650 Km west of Addis Ababa, while 50 Rotarians went to the north east of the country to Gondar in the Amhara regional state located 750 km away from Addis.

Before leaving to their respective assignment in Assossa and Gondar,the delegation visited the recovery unit of Cheshire Home at the Menagesha Rehabilitation center. Menagesha serves 68 children with Polio, providing them with housing, therapy and education. “There is informal education and rehabilitation. We train the polio victims on handicrafts and basic education. With the help of the Rotarians we are doing fine,”Gebremedhin Bekele, Executive Director of Cheshire Services Ethiopia said appreciatively. Leonard Cheshire Disability organization was founded by the late Group Captain Lord Cheshire of Woodhall in 1948. The Cheshire Home began its activities in Ethiopia in 1961 somewhere at Kasanchis. In 1971 in the 40th year of his reign, His Imperial Majesty Haileselassie the First built the Menagesha Cheshire home. According to Gebremedhin the Emperor used to come regularly at the center. He showed the visiting delegation a villa, which now serves as a guest house, where the Emperor took a break after visiting the children.

Danny Wilford, who is not new for Cheshire Home, as he has visited it on his several previous visits to Ethiopia, is able to relate his own story when he sees the children here. What I see on the children is almost identical to what I feel. With therapy I’ve been able to regain the ability to walk with minor limping. “I know how and what hydrotherapy can do for the body,” Wilford who has been working to build a water therapy center at the Cheshire Home, exclaimed.

Currently in Ethiopia there is no hydrotherapy treatment for patients even though it has shown to dramatically help those with the illness because it stretches the body, making it very agile. “I couldn’t walk as I do now if the facilities were not available. That is why I am committed to constructing the water therapy gym in this center,” Rtn. Wilford added. The overall cost of the hydrotherapy gym is expected to be 80 thousand dollars, Gebremedhin Bekele, Executive Director of Cheshire Services Ethiopia told the delegation. Wilford has already raised over 65 thousand dollars. “This 25,000 dollars is the preliminary pay for the start of the construction. The other 40 thousand dollars is in the account of Rotary.

We will deliver it any time,” he told Capital at the center. The pool is expected to be completed in less than a year. “This swimming pool is not for recreation. The hydrotherapy pool is very important for the polio patients. Their rehabilitation will be fast when they get the therapy with hot water; a regular swimming pool would not be anywhere near as effective,” Gebremedhin Bekele, said. In Africa two of three strains of the virus are common with one being weaker than the other. The virus can remain in the human body for up to 14 days before it begins to inflict damage. Chad has the highest number of Polio cases with 114. The Democratic Republic of Congo has 84. Nigeria has 37 and Cote D’Ivoire has 35 cases of polio. Africa still represents 80% of polio cases in the world.

The team of 73 International Rotarians along with local rotary members who have helped in the project are invited today by President Girma Wolde Giorgis at a ceremony co-hosted by the MOH and the Rotary International at the National Presidential Palace. At the occasion Rotarians renewed their commitment to the End Polio Now campaign and briefed the president of the supplemental immunization activities undertaken during their stay in Ethiopia.