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Scholar measuring and stopping public corruption

Global grant scholarship recipient Lusiné Mehrabyan is working toward solving one of the most difficult and pervasive world ills: government corruption.

Mehrabyan, a native of Armenia who was raised in Ithaca, N.Y., recognized the plague of corruption in her home country but also in the U.S. public sector. 

“I think it’s common in every country, and it’s something that should be addressed,” she says. “It’s very difficult, because it’s hard to measure.” Mehrabyan hopes to establish better ways to do that. 

She recently earned a master’s degree from the London School of Economics (LSE) and further developed her interest in fighting corruption while working with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris in the summer of 2016.

Q: How did fighting corruption become an important focus for you?

A: For a policy project for LSE, I looked at corruption in Estonia – specifically, how anti-corruption legislation would affect corruption levels. The patterns did not make sense to me. One of the ways to measure corruption is to do a survey, and that is a very flawed way of trying to measure corruption because people can lie on surveys. That’s why I approached the OECD. 

Lusiné Mehrabyan 

Illustration by Monica Garwood

Q: What was the focus of your internship with the OECD?

A: I worked in the division called Public Sector Integrity. Because of the quantitative skills I obtained at LSE, my task was to help with the empirical evidence in their research. I worked with my supervisor to show what happens to productivity levels in a country if there’s corruption in the public sector. I also created an index to measure conflict of interest and different trends, such as whether there’s more conflict of interest or less if you are very punitive as a country. 

Q: What did you learn?

A: I realized we need to look at different methods and different approaches to measure corruption. I’m doing research to see whether corruption is intuitive or deliberate. This is a question that has not been explored, and it is a critical question. If corrupt behavior is intuitive, you can change the environment in small ways. But if you learn that corrupt behavior is actually deliberate, then you have to do more of the traditional policy approach, which is sanctioning and punishing people who do corrupt work.

Q: What would you like to do next?

A: Since I moved here, Brexit happened, and I realized that a lot of people felt alienated from the discipline of economics. I’m trying to bring economics to the public sphere,  A: Since I moved here, Brexit happened, and I realized that a lot of people felt alienated from the discipline of economics. I’m trying to bring economics to the public sphere, using a touch of mysteriousness and a touch of spontaneity and fun to make it interesting to people. The idea is to use a guerrilla-style lecture format – I guess you could call it “pop-up economics.” The location is secret, the topic is secret, the occasional guest speakers are secret. In a very engaging, immersive way, people are going to be introduced to different economic concepts. The main aim is to get people to be more engaged citizens and to hold our politicians more accountable.

–Nikki Kallio

• Read more stories from The Rotarian

https://www.rotary.org/en/scholar-measuring-and-stopping-public-corruption

The power of a garden

Rotary members in Harvard, Illinois, USA, have teamed up with community groups to help alleviate hunger and bring the community together.

By Arnold R. Grahl
Photos by Monika Lozinska
Videos by Andrew Chudzinski 

On a sunny morning in July, two dozen preschool children from Brown Bear Daycare inspect a bed of milkweed plants for monarch butterfly eggs, holding magnifying glasses to the underside of leaves in search of the tiny, off-white objects.

View Slideshow

Preschool children from Brown Bear Daycare plant a young tomato plant. The class visits the garden every Monday morning spring to fall.

Curiosity stoked, the five-year-olds and their teachers move to the shade of a large tree to listen to a master gardener explain the role these butterflies play in gardens. The preschool class visits the community garden in Harvard, Illinois, USA, every Monday from spring to fall to learn about garden-related topics and even help out. 

“They get to taste the vegetables, some that they have never even seen. They get to experience what it is like to plant a garden from the planting to the picking to the eating,” says Sheila Henson, executive director of the day care center and a member of the Rotary Club of Harvard. “At the end of the summer, we have a parent night where the parents come and get to see the different things their children have been involved with.”

With the goals of alleviating hunger and educating the community, master gardeners from University of Illinois Extension planted the garden in 2001 on a half-acre parcel donated by the city and adjacent to the public library. Over the years, the master gardeners have enlisted the support of many businesses, organizations, and clubs, including the Rotary Club of Harvard, making the project a community-wide effort. 

As many as 250 needy families benefit from the 10,000 pounds of vegetables that are grown and donated every year to the local food pantry. The fresh produce serves as a safety net for many families. 

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Roughly a quarter of the community’s 9,200 residents live below the federal poverty line, a result of the limited employment opportunities in small farm towns across Illinois. The already fragile economy was further affected by the closing of a Motorola  plant here in 2003 after only seven years of operation.

“In this community, the only way we can get by is by helping each other,” says Dave Decker, site director for the Harvard Community Food Pantry. “Everybody needs a little help now and then.”

The Rotary Club of Harvard took on the project seven years ago, looking for a way to address hunger and help the community. With only seven members, the club has had an impact far beyond its size, amplifying its efforts by working with the master gardeners and other groups.

“Harvard is definitely a better place because of the members of this club, and that is what keeps us going,” says Mike Morris, the club’s president. “It’s the expertise of the master gardeners, individuals in the community, farmers who help, and the education provided through the day care that makes this an amazing team effort.” 

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The Rotary club has provided $400 to buy seeds and starter plants from a local nursery every year since 2011. It also purchased plastic drip irrigation tubing and fertilizer valves after a drought threatened the garden in 2012. This year, it provided a letter of support needed by the master gardeners to secure a $5,000 grant from the McHenry County Community Foundation for an organic compost mix that will add nutrients back to the soil and help keep weeds at bay.

Morris has made the garden his special focus and enlisted every member of the club to help with planting, weeding, and harvesting. Henson also recruited day care employees to volunteer. 

The garden needs everyone for planting, says Dale Nelmes, one of the master gardeners who volunteer every week.

“Many of us master gardeners are up there in years and can’t get down on our hands and knees like we used to,” he says. “I was so impressed with Rotary and Sheila, who brought all these young volunteers in. It was incredible how much we accomplished.”

The Harvard Rotarians also used a Rotary grant to buy a new freezer, which allows the food pantry to store vegetables longer. 

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Last winter, Morris secured another Rotary grant  for $2,000, which, when combined with $5,000 from club funds, funded seven weeks of food deliveries from the Northern Illinois Food Bank. A mobile unit from the food bank set up at Brown Bear Daycare once a month from October to April, each time distributing 9,000 pounds of meat, vegetables, boxed goods, breads, and fruits.

Morris says growing up on a farm in northwestern Illinois played a big part in his interest in fighting hunger. 

“I know we can produce more than enough food to feed everybody in the country,” he says. “It’s just a matter of the logistics of getting it from the farm to their table.”

On a July morning, about 20 people – Rotarians, master gardeners, and community volunteers – are scattered among the 14 rows, each 125 feet long, pulling weeds and picking vegetables. The garden is behind schedule this year because of heavy rains, and today’s harvest is smaller than normal. At the food pantry, Nelmes weighs each crate: 9 pounds of broccoli, 6 pounds of kohlrabi, 8 pounds of peppers, and 22 pounds of zucchini. Later in the season, many more hands will be needed to harvest.

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Reina Montes began volunteering at the garden after a back injury forced her to stop working temporarily and she had to go to the pantry to supplement her groceries. When she learned about the garden, she persuaded her daughter, Elizabeth Sanchez, to join her on Mondays to help plant, pick, and weed.

Montes moved to Harvard from Mexico City more than 20 years ago and fell in love with the smaller town. Her daughter now has two college-age daughters of her own, whom she hopes to teach the value of community service. 

“Thanks to the garden, we can feed people who can’t afford to buy fresh food at the supermarket,” says Sanchez. “I believe it is everybody’s responsibility to help the community. If our children see that there is unity, love, and support, they are going to do the same thing. We are leaving them a legacy.” 

https://www.rotary.org/en/rotary-and-garden-support-community

New partners build on Rotary's strengths

Habitat for Humanity and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness join with Rotary to improve lives 

By Sallyann Price

Rotary has added two service partners that offer clubs new ways to collaborate with other organizations and strengthen their projects: Habitat for Humanity and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB).

  1. Habitat for Humanity, one of Rotary’s newest service partners, builds homes for families in need, and provides opportunities for hands-on community service.

    Photo by Alyce Henson

  2. Rotary members assemble in an Atlanta suburb to receive their work assignments for a home building project with Habitat for Humanity, one of Rotary’s newest service partners.

    Photo by Alyce Henson

  3. Randy Schiltz (right) helps put up siding during a Habitat for Humanity home building project. Schiltz owns a construction firm and is a member of the Rotary Club of Alpharetta, Georgia, USA.

    Photo by Alyce Henson

  4. Alpharetta Rotarian Glennette Haynes (middle) works alongside a friend of the new homeowner.

    Photo by Alyce Henson

  5. Local secondary school students join Rotary members, including Katie Rocco from the Alpharetta club (center), and other volunteers to lend a hand.

    Photo by Alyce Henson

Habitat for Humanity has a long history of working with Rotarians and Rotaractors to build the types of low-cost shelters that now qualify for global grant funding, under a recent Board decision. It’s also a natural fit for Rotary’s approach to vocational service, which encourages members to use their professional skills to help others.

When the Rotary Club of Alpharetta, Georgia, USA, participated in a Habitat home building project in the Atlanta area earlier this year, members showed up ready to work and lend their professional expertise. Randy Schiltz, who owns a construction firm, helped the new homeowners pre-drill holes to prepare for installing siding. Interior decorator Glennette Haynes, who works with people in transitional housing, was there to offer advice on furnishing and decorating their homes.

Habitat for Humanity International Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Reckford is a member of the Rotary Club of Atlanta. During the 2017 Rotary International Convention there, volunteers gathered on-site to help construct the wood framing for a home.

Our values are so closely aligned, and the desire to help others runs deep in both organizations.

Jonathan Reckford

Habitat for Humanity International Chief Executive Officer and Rotary Club of Atlanta member

“Often when I speak to Rotary groups and ask how many people have worked on a Habitat project, it’s not uncommon for more than three-quarters of the audience to raise their hands,” Reckford says. “Our values are so closely aligned, and the desire to help others runs deep in both organizations.”

Rotary’s values are also closely aligned with IAPB, a membership organization that brings together government and nongovernmental agencies, academics, and private providers to plan and implement sustainable eye care programs. 

“We seek to encourage both organizations [Rotary and IAPB] to promote greater awareness of the need for eye clinics and blindness prevention activities, to develop projects together, to consult, and to work together with their constituents,” says Peter Kyle, a member of the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill (Washington, D.C.), and Rotary’s Joint Committee on Partnerships.

Rotary is a global organization with members in nearly every community around the world, and the cause of eye health is just as universal. 

Victoria Sheffield

President and CEO of the International Eye Foundation and vice president of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness

A global grant project in India, one of three pilot projects with IAPB, aims to improve access to eye care in Karol Bagh, a neighborhood in New Delhi, where private eye doctors and facilities are available but unaffordable for many.

Local Rotary clubs worked with the International Eye Foundation, an IAPB member, to raise funds and supply medical equipment for vision screenings and treatment at an eye hospital’s new facility. They also worked to design a social enterprise to sustain the hospital’s charitable outreach programs.

“There is a wonderful opportunity for our networks,” says Victoria Sheffield, president and CEO of the International Eye Foundation and vice president of IAPB. “Rotary is a global organization with members in nearly every community around the world, and the cause of eye health is just as universal. Everyone is affected by eye conditions at some point, whether it’s needing glasses or cataract surgery, or addressing a congenital issue or complications from diabetes. Everyone has two eyes.”

https://www.rotary.org/en/new-service-partners-build-rotarys-strengths

Rotary helps wildfire victims

Rotary helps wildfire victims

The Rotary Foundation has set up a special fund to help in the wake of deadly wildfires in California.

More than 220,000 acres have been scorched and more than 40 people have been confirmed dead.

“The magnitude of the devastation that is occurring in the North Bay and wine county is vast and far reaching. The recovery and rebuild is going to be a long process but we are confident that we can lead the way in bringing these communities back. Rotarians know how to get things done and won’t stop until we reach the finish line,” said Bob Rogers, Rotary 5130 District Governor.  

How to contribute

Check

Payable to: The Rotary Foundation DAF
In the Memo line: The Northern California Fire
Recovery Fund #615
Mail to: Rotary DAF
c/o NRS
12 Gill Street, Suite 2600
Woburn, MA 01801
US dollars only

Credit card

Contribute online at https://www.your-fundaccount.com/rotary/HowToContribute.asp.
You will be asked to enter the account name (The Northern California Fire Recovery Fund and #615) and provide your address.

Wire instructions

In addition to authorizing the wire, you must fax a copy of the wire authorization to (781) 658-2497 to complete the transfer of US dollars only.
Please wire funds to: Boston Private Bank & Trust Company
ABA Number: 011002343
For credit to: The Rotary Foundation
Account number: 943423732
For Further Credit: TRF DAF
Account Name: The Northern California Fire Recovery Fund #615
You can contribute to the Donor Advised Fund by following the instructions below.

Stock instructions

In addition to authorizing the trade, you must fax a copy of the trade instructions to (781) 658-2497 to complete the transfer.
DTC Shares to: SEI Private Trust Company
DTC Participant ID: 2039
Agent Bank ID: 94952
Credit to: Rotary Clearing/Liquidation Account
Account Number: 755Z0007
Agent Internal STC Account Number: 11110-C

If you have questions about how you can help, contact relief@rotary.org.

• Rotary raises money for hurricane, earthquake victims. Read the story.

https://www.rotary.org/en/rotary-helps-wildfire-victims

Rotary helps disaster victims

Rotary helps disaster victims

The Rotary Foundation and Rotary clubs are helping communities battered by severe weather and earthquakes.

How to contribute

Four Rotary Foundation donor advised funds have been set up to accept donations for hurricane and earthquake victims.

Puerto Rico

Account name: Puerto Rico Recovery
Account number: 614

Mexico earthquakes

Account name: Mexico Earthquake Recovery Fund
Account number: 613

Hurricane Harvey

Account name: Gulf Coast Disaster Relief Fund
Account number: 608

Hurricanes Irma and Maria
Account name: Hurricane Emergency Relief Fund
Account number: 296

You can contribute by check or wire transfer or online with a credit card. You’ll need to provide the DAF account name and number listed above. When contributing via credit card, please check the address box to share your address with Rotary. 

Learn how you can contribute.

Two powerful earthquakes hit Mexico, destroying buildings and highways, and killing hundreds of people. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria have caused billions of dollars in damage.

The Rotary Foundation has established four special funds to collect donations to help victims rebuild.

Through his family foundation, Rotarian Robert Murray established the Puerto Rico fund. Murray wanted to encourage Rotary members to match the $1 million the Murray Foundation donated to the Red Cross.

Rotary club members continue to work on the ground to bring relief in their communities.

Rotary’s partner, ShelterBox, is providing support to families displaced by the storms.

If you have questions about how you can help, contact relief@rotary.org. To see how clubs are helping, go to Rotary Ideas.

• Rotary collects funds to help wildfire victims. Read the story.

https://www.rotary.org/en/rotary-helps-disaster-victims

Movie tells inspirational polio story

‘Breathe’ details life of British polio survivor Robin Cavendish, who contracted the disease in Kenya in 1958

By Dave King, Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland

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As Rotary prepares to celebrate World Polio Day on 24 October,  an inspiring new film depicting the devastating impact of polio is hitting theaters.

Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy star in the love story “Breathe,” now playing in select U.S. theaters and scheduled for wider release over the next month. The movie tells the story of British polio survivor Robin Cavendish, who contracted the disease in Kenya in 1958. 

At the age of 28, he was paralyzed from the neck down, confined to a hospital bed with a respirator, and given just months to live. 

However, with the encouragement and help of his wife, Diana, Robin was able to leave the hospital and spend the rest of his life advocating for people with disabilities and popularizing a new wheelchair with a built-in respirator.

People were frightened by polio. People would shout at us in the street complaining about my father being in a wheelchair when he should have been in the hospital. 

Jonathan Cavendish

Rotary is working with the film’s producer, Robin and Diana’s son, Jonathan Cavendish, to promote the organization’s work to eradicate polio.

Speaking at the film’s European premiere in London, Jonathan, who is featured in the movie, described Breathe as “probably the most expensive home movie ever made.”

“The message of this film is that you can achieve anything if you have the right people around you,” he said. “If you put everything into your relationship and really go for it, life will start looking rosier and better.”

Jonathan joined Eve Conway, vice chair of Rotary International’s End Polio Now: Countdown to History Campaign Committee for Europe, for a question-and-answer session with the audience after the film’s screening in Leicester Square to launch the London Film Festival.

“The thing to remember about the 1960s is that we were all frightened about the things we didn’t know,” Jonathan said. 

“Nobody had ever met anybody with that degree of disability. People were frightened by polio. People would shout at us in the street complaining about my father being in a wheelchair when he should have been in the hospital. Can you imagine that? 

“However, my dad was a very nice, inspirational, and charming man — something which has been captured in the film. My dad wanted to put everyone else at ease and imbued that spirit with other disabled people who he encouraged to move out of the hospital.”

Since Robin Cavendish died in 1994, polio has declined sharply.  Now, thanks to the work of Rotary and its Global Polio Eradication Initiative partners, there are just a handful of cases worldwide. 

Robin’s mother, Diana Cavendish, who is played by Foy, said she loved watching the film. 

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Speaking at the red carpet premiere hosted by the British Film Institute, the now-83-year-old said, “I decided I was going to adopt a very detached attitude. My grandson told me to pretend it is somebody else. But I think they have made a really good job of it. 

“It is a long time ago, but when it all first happened, people who were as badly disabled as Robin were told they weren’t to leave hospital. If it hadn’t been for the legendary professor Teddy Hall and his revolutionary chair, we wouldn’t have got anywhere.”

Golden Globe winner Foy, who starred in “The Crown” and “Wolf Hall,” described Diane as a down-to-earth and very humble woman. “When I met Diane, everything about her impressed me,” Foy said. 

“She is an extraordinary woman, with her strength, her bravery, and her love for her husband. Everything she did is extraordinary, and I am really pleased the story has been told.”

This true story of love with no limits is directed by Andy Serkis and written by Academy Award-nominated writer William Nicholson (“Les Miserables,” “Everest,” and “Gladiator”).

“Robin and Diana were extraordinary people,” Serkis said. “They broke the mold. They were mavericks of their time, not settling for the limitations they were given about living life in a hospital waiting for death. 

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“It was about the risks that they took, and then the joy they had as a result of that which then went on to inspire millions of others. It is quite extraordinary.”

At the heart of this movie about polio is a celebration of positivity, bravery, and human possibility, a theme which struck a chord with Academy Award nominee Garfield (“Hacksaw Ridge,” “Silence”), who plays Robin Cavendish.

Robin Cavendish fought for value of life. He fought to make life meaningful and not just survive it, but to live a rich and connected life.

Andrew Garfield

“Robin Cavendish fought for value of life. He fought to make life meaningful and not just survive it, but to live a rich and connected life.

“Out of such loss and suffering, they created such joy, and that’s just an inspiration for all of us,” Garfield said. 

“What I saw in their story was a template of how to live. How to live a life of meaning with the inevitable loss incorporated into one’s life. To laugh at the universe, to laugh at the cosmic joke, the absurdity of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune which befall all of us in some ways.” 

• On World Polio Day, 24 October, Rotary will release video messages from Andrew Garfield, Claire Foy, and Andy Serkis highlighting the organization’s work to end polio.

https://www.rotary.org/en/breathe-movie-tells-heroic-polio-story

Cellphones power disease fight

Pakistan and Nigeria replace paper-based reporting with fast, accurate cellphone messaging

By Ryan Hyland
Photos by Khaula Jamil

Mobile phones and simple text messaging may be the keys to victory in the world’s largest public health initiative: the eradication of polio. 

As the disease retreats from the global stage, thriving in only a few remote areas in three countries, it’s up to health workers to deliver vaccines and share information with speed and accuracy. 

Health workers in Pakistan are receiving cellphone and e-monitoring training at the Rotary Resource Center in Nowshera, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. 

Rotary and its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative are strengthening the lines of communication by giving cellphones to health workers in Pakistan and Nigeria, where a single text message could save a life. 

In Pakistan, Rotary has been working to replace traditional paper-based reporting of maternal and child health information, including polio immunization data, with mobile phone and e-monitoring technology. 

Community health workers across the nation have received more than 800 phones through a partnership with Rotary, the Pakistani government; Telenor, the country’s second-largest telecommunications provider; and Eycon, a data monitoring and evaluation specialist. Organizers plan to distribute a total of 5,000 cellphones by the end of 2018. 

Health workers can use the phones to send data via text message to a central server. If they see a potential polio case, they can immediately alert officials at Pakistan’s National Emergency Operations Center. They also can note any children who didn’t receive the vaccine or parental refusals – and record successful immunizations. In Pakistan, the polio eradication effort aims to reach the nation’s 35 million children under age five.

The result is a collection of real-time information that officials can easily monitor and assess, says Michel Thieren, regional emergency director of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergency Program. 

Pakistan health workers are replacing traditional paper-reporting with accurate and timely cellphone-based reporting. 

“Cellphone technology signals tremendous progress in the polio eradication program,” says Thieren, who has directed polio-related initiatives for WHO in Pakistan. “The data we collect needs to have such a granular level of detail. With real-time information that can be recorded and transcribed immediately, you can increase accuracy and validity.

“This gives governments and polio eradication leaders an advantage in the decisions we need to make operationally and tactically to eliminate polio,” Thieren says.

Beyond polio

Health workers also are using mobile phones to monitor a multitude of maternal and child health factors. 

Pakistan’s child mortality rate ranks among the highest in the world, according to UNICEF, with 81 deaths under age five per 1,000 live births. 

But mobile technology can help reduce those deaths, says Asher Ali, project manager for Rotary’s Pakistan PolioPlus Committee. 

“Our health workers, including community midwives, are tracking pregnant mothers,” Ali says. “When a child is born, they can input and maintain complete health records, not just for polio, but for other vaccines and basic health care and hygiene needs.”

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They also can monitor infectious diseases, such as malaria, tuberculosis, and influenza-like illnesses, as well as child malnutrition and maternal health concerns. 

“If there is a problem with the baby or the mother, we can send information to the government health departments immediately, so they can solve the issue quickly and adjust their strategies,” Ali says. 

Cellphones also facilitate follow-up visits with families, because health workers can send appointment reminders over text message. 

Proliferation of phones

Mobile phone use worldwide has spiked recently, with about 7 billion subscribers globally, 89 percent of them in developing countries, says WHO. Even people living on less than $1 a day often have access to phones and text messaging, according to WHO. Cellphones are used more than any other technology in the developing world. 

Rotary and other nonprofit organizations are leveraging this fact to boost a variety of health initiatives. 

The Grameen Foundation conducts a “mobile midwife” program that sends daily texts and weekly voice mails to expectant mothers, offering advice during pregnancy and the first year of the child’s life. UNICEF provides similar support to mothers, with a focus on nutrition throughout pregnancy and the first two years of a child’s life. 

Mobile phones also are helping in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa. The British nonprofit Absolute Return for Kids uses text messages to remind patients about medications and upcoming appointments. 

The Ugandan health ministry’s mTrac program, a mobile text messaging data collection network run in conjunction with UNICEF and other organizations, has a broader focus. Nearly 30,000 workers at 3,700 health centers submit weekly reports through their phones and receive surveys, alerts, and other communications. Questions go out to health workers about medical supply levels, conditions in clinics, and other critical issues.

Members of the Rotaract Club of The Caduceus, India, collaborated with the Jana Swasthya Project in 2015 to screen more than 8,000 people for oral health conditions, hypertension, and diabetes during Kumbh Mela, one of the world’s largest Hindu festivals. The project established a digital disease-surveillance system to study epidemiological trends, replacing a paper-based data-tracking process and allowing officials to access live data with a few clicks. 

In 2016, after Nigeria saw its first polio cases in almost two years, Rotary and WHO officials rushed to replace traditional reporting with a cell-based system in the northern state of Borno, where the new cases were identified. The mobile phone initiative has since expanded to more than 11 states. 

“Traditional paper reporting was misleading our program. The information we were getting was not entirely accurate. This gave us the sense that we were doing better than we actually were,” says Boniface Igomu, program coordinator of Rotary’s Nigeria PolioPlus Committee. “With cellphones, we’re identifying problem areas quickly and acting accordingly.”

The country has yet to see a polio case this year. 

Nigeria is also using cell-based mapping technology to identify areas that polio immunization teams have missed. Health workers test stool samples from children arriving from remote areas and log reports of acute flaccid paralysis. This effort started in Borno but has expanded to three additional states, Igomu says. 

After more than 1,000 people died earlier this year in Nigeria from meningitis, the country used the same digital tools in emergency vaccination campaigns, he adds.

“Mobile technologies are the type of innovations that can fill in the gaps of our program and finally help us end polio for good,” Igomu says. “Their uses have never been more important than now.”

https://www.rotary.org/en/cellphones-help-disease-eradication

Rotary gives $49.5 million to help eradicate polio

Rotary gives $49.5 million to help eradicate polio and challenges the world to continue the fight to end the disease

EVANSTON, Ill. (Oct. 17, 2017) — With just 11 confirmed polio cases so far in 2017, the world is on the brink of eradicating polio, a vaccine-preventable disease that once paralyzed hundreds of thousands of children each year.

To recognize this historic progress, Rotary clubs worldwide will host events in conjunction with Rotary International’s fifth annual World Polio Day celebration on Oct. 24.

This year, the event will be co-hosted by Rotary and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and held at the foundation’s headquarters in Seattle. The program will feature an update on the global fight to end polio and an array of guest speakers, celebrities, and public health experts. People around the world can view the livestream of the event at endpolio.org/worldpolioday on Oct. 24 at 2:30 p.m. Pacific time. 

“Rotary and its partners are closer than ever to eradicating polio,” says Michael K. McGovern, chair of Rotary’s International PolioPlus Committee, which leads the organization’s polio eradication efforts. “World Polio Day is the ideal opportunity to celebrate our successes, raise public awareness, and talk about what is needed to end this paralyzing disease for good.”

Without full funding and political commitment to eradication, the disease could return to countries that are now polio-free and put children everywhere at risk.

Rotary is giving $49.5 million in grants to support immunization and surveillance activities led by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

Some of the funds will support efforts to end polio in the three countries where polio remains endemic:

  • Afghanistan: $9.32 million
  • Pakistan: $8.94 million
  • Nigeria: $7.71 million

Further funding will support efforts to keep six vulnerable countries polio-free:

  • Chad: $2.37 million
  • The Democratic Republic of Congo: $4.5 million
  • Guinea: $961,000
  • Somalia: $1.62 million
  • South Sudan: $3.77 million
  • Sudan: $2.56 million

An additional $7.74 million will go toward surveillance activities in Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean region.

In a show of solidarity and to raise awareness and funds for polio eradication, Rotary clubs around the globe will host nearly 1,900 events for World Polio Day. They include:

  • A viewing party of the livestream in Fond du Lac, Wis.
  • A Rock vs. Polio music event in Curitiba, Brazil
  • Placing of End Polio Now piggy banks in local businesses to collect donations in Viljoenskroon, South Africa
  • A soccer game in Cairo, Egypt between the street children of Hope Village Society and students from local engineering colleges
  • A golf fundraiser in Yoshiwara, Japan

“To protect all children from polio, world governments and donors must see through their commitments to fund critical work and support rigorous disease surveillance in both endemic and at-risk polio-free countries,” says McGovern. Rotary has committed to raising $150 million over the next three years, which will be matched 2-to-1 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, yielding $450 million for polio eradication activities, including immunization and surveillance. 

Rotary started its polio eradication program PolioPlus in 1985, and in 1988 became a partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, along with WHO, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation later became a partner, too. Since the initiative launched, the incidence of polio has plummeted by more than 99.9 percent, from about 350,000 cases in 1988 to just 37 cases in 2016. Rotary has contributed a total of more than $1.7 billion — including matching funds from the Gates Foundation — and countless volunteer hours to protect more than 2.5 billion children in 122 countries from polio. 

About Rotary

Rotary brings together a global network of volunteer leaders dedicated to tackling the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges. Rotary connects 1.2 million members of more than 35,000 Rotary clubs in over 200 countries and geographical areas. Their work improves lives at both the local and international levels, from helping families in need in their own communities to working toward a polio-free world. Visit Rotary.org and endpolio.org for more about Rotary and its efforts to eradicate polio. Video and still images are available on the Rotary Media Center.

Livestream: Tune in to the World Polio Day livestream on October 24 at 5:30 p.m. Eastern, 2:30 p.m. Pacific, at endpolio.org/worldpolioday.

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Contact: Audrey Carl, audrey.carl@rotary.org, 847-866-3424

https://www.rotary.org/en/rotary-gives-495-million-help-eradicate-polio

Somali refugee spreads peace as Rotary fellow

Manitoba honors Rotary Peace Fellow for public achievement

By Paul Engleman

Refugees who come to Winnipeg often end up living in areas that are predominantly inhabited by indigenous people. 

“Newcomers do not know much about the indigenous life and heritage and, without that knowledge, the first thing they encounter is people who are poor and stereotyped by the mainstream community,” says Abdikheir “Abdi” Ahmed, a 2011-12 Rotary Peace Fellow and immigration partnership coordinator for the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg. “Indigenous people may see immigrants as encroaching into their neighborhoods. There is tension between both groups.” 

Abdikheir “Abdi” Ahmed, a 2011-12 Rotary Peace Fellow and immigration partnership coordinator for the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg.

Ahmed works to smooth relations, helping them see they have more in common than what divides them. “Integration is a two-way process,” he says. 

In recognition of his work, Ahmed received the Order of the Buffalo Hunt, one of the highest honours for public achievement issued by the Manitoba legislature, in January 2016. 

“I never thought what I was doing had this significance,” he says. “But I don’t look at what I have done. I look at what needs to be done to bring about better living standards for people.” 

Ahmed, 37, may understand the needs of immigrants better than most. 

Originally from Somalia, he and his family fled the conflict there and settled in Kenya when he was a child. 

My hope is that in the next 20 to 50 years, if we have more Rotary Peace Fellows around the world who are speaking the same language and taking on a leadership role to create an interconnected world, things will change.

Abdikheir “Abdi” Ahmed

As a young adult, he moved to Canada as part of the national resettlement program. He began working with refugee children who were struggling in school while attending the University of Winnipeg, where he earned a degree in international development in 2007.

After graduation, Ahmed began working at the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba. 

He learned about the Rotary Peace Centers program from Noëlle DePape, a colleague who had earned her master’s degree at the University of Queensland, Australia, through the fellowship.

 After Ahmed completed his own peace fellowship at Queensland, he and DePape worked together to develop a curriculum for a summer course that they teach to high school students at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, part of a Rotary District 5550 (Manitoba and parts of Ontario and Saskatchewan) program called Adventures in Human Rights.

“We help them view the world from the perspective that everyone’s rights are equal and understand the idea of building a community where everyone’s rights are respected and each person is given a fair opportunity,” he says. 

In addition to his work in Winnipeg, Ahmed serves on the board of Humankind International, an early childhood learning center that he co-founded at the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya with two Somali friends who also immigrated to Winnipeg. He says it serves 150 children with four teachers, and he hopes to expand it to accommodate the many children who have to be turned away. 

Despite the suffering he has witnessed and the daily conflicts he works to resolve, Ahmed is optimistic about the prospects for peace and the potential of the peace centers program. 

“My hope is that in the next 20 to 50 years, if we have more Rotary Peace Fellows around the world who are speaking the same language and taking on a leadership role to create an interconnected world, things will change,” he says. “I also hope we can find an opportunity for Rotarians and past peace fellows to collaborate on projects in a more defined way.” 

Ahmed and his wife, Saadi, have three sons. He says their oldest, Mohamed, 9, dreams of playing in the NBA and says that with the money he earns, he will build houses for the homeless people he sees on his way to school. 

Ibrahim, 7, wants to be a firefighter so he can save people. One-year-old Yussuf has not announced any career plans yet. 

https://www.rotary.org/en/somali-refugee-spreads-peace-rotary-fellow

Where polio hides

The discovery of the poliovirus in Nigeria last summer shocked eradication efforts. Here’s how Rotary is making sure it doesn’t happen again

By Erin Biba
Photos by Andrew Esiebo

For a 13-month-old boy whose family lives in northeastern Nigeria, escaping Boko Haram was only the beginning of a long, difficult journey.

When his family finally arrived at the Muna Garage camp for internally displaced people (IDP), they had walked more than 130 miles in three days. They were starving, and the camp was only a temporary setup with inadequate facilities, housing more than 15,000 people. But the worst news was yet to come. Health officials in the camp determined the baby had polio.

“It was heartbreaking,” says Tunji Funsho, chair of the Nigeria PolioPlus Committee and a member of the Rotary Club of Lekki Phase I. Funsho met the boy on a trip he took in August to three of the country’s IDP camps. “At least (the family was) able to escape Boko Haram. The child was able to walk but with a limp, and was quite malnourished.”

If it weren’t for the polio surveillance system that the World Health Organization (WHO) has in place at every one of Nigeria’s IDP camps, Funsho says, the boy’s polio could have easily gone unnoticed. In fact, it was a shock to the entire polio eradication effort in the country that a case existed at all. 

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An estimated 15,000 people live in the Muna Garage camp, an informal settlement on private land. 

The country hadn’t had a case since July 2014 and had been removed from the list of polio-endemic countries. But in August 2016, routine surveillance methods, which include sampling of sewage and wastewater to look for viruses circulating in the wild as well as monitoring and investigating all cases of paralysis in children, discovered two cases of polio in Borno state – one of them the 13-month-old. (Two more cases were subsequently reported.) Polio wasn’t gone from Nigeria after all. 

“The new cases devastated us. Even one case is unacceptable. It’s very unfortunate we are in this position, but we are recalibrating our efforts to end this disease,” Nigeria’s health minister, Isaac Adewole, told Rotary leaders during a meeting at Rotary International World Headquarters at the time. “We consider this situation a national emergency.”

The importance of surveillance

The polio surveillance system, carried out mostly by WHO and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), two of Rotary’s partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, consists of several parts. First, doctors and other community health workers such as healers and traditional birth attendants monitor children for paralysis. “Most times cases are not discovered at a medical facility – they’re discovered at home by the volunteer community mobilizers and people who are paying regular visits,” Funsho explains. “They find a child that is limping or unable to use a limb they’ve used before. They’re trained and they know the questions to ask.” If they discover a paralyzed child, the health workers report the case to WHO, which sends a surveillance team to collect stool samples from the child and his or her siblings for testing. 

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The second part of the surveillance process involves local authorities collecting samples from sewage systems or, in places that don’t have adequate sanitation facilities, rivers and bodies of water near large settlements. The samples are sent to a lab, one of 145 in the Global Polio Laboratory Network, which looks for the poliovirus. If it is found, the samples go on to a more sophisticated lab where scientists perform genetic sequencing to identify the strain and map where and when it has been seen before.

The worldwide scale of these surveillance efforts is massive and costs roughly $100 million every year. For the most part, these activities take place only in countries that don’t have adequate health systems already established. In the U.S., for example, if a child showing signs of paralysis visits the doctor, the necessary tests for polio are already a part of the working health system. But in countries that don’t have such a robust system, WHO takes on that responsibility. That means investigating more than 100,000 cases of paralysis around the world every year to rule out polio.

In Nigeria’s IDP camps, surveillance is more complicated. Before people enter, they are screened by security agencies (there have been several cases of suicide bombers trying to infiltrate the camps). Next, at the camp’s health facility, doctors evaluate the new arrivals’ overall health and screen them for polio. Volunteers then document what villages they have traveled from, using the information to track who is in the camp, where they are within the camp, and who their family members are.

The challenge of mobile populations

Before the new cases were detected, the surveillance teams working in IDP camps were vaccinating and searching for suspected polio cases as usual. 

But in the official documents, when they were reporting their findings, the teams weren’t marking the displaced people as being located in their camps: They were being counted by their area of origination. However, surveillance teams and vaccinators weren’t actually traveling to some parts of the state where the displaced people had come from because the presence of the Boko Haram terrorist group made it difficult. 

The Nigerian army escorts people traveling through risky areas. 

“This gave the impression there was good surveillance (in those areas), when in fact there were major blind spots,” says Mark Pallansch, director of the Division of Viral Diseases at the CDC. “We knew this was an area of concern, so we implemented additional measures to try to strengthen surveillance.” 

The extra measures included scaling up environmental surveillance and sampling healthy individuals – including adults – for the presence of poliovirus as they exited inaccessible areas. Teams also searched IDP camps and host communities more frequently and reassigned the acute flaccid paralysis cases by place of onset. It was in part thanks to such strengthened activities that additional polio cases were found.

But the surveillance situation remains volatile, Pallansch confirms. “This really underscores the dangers of any low-level residual polio transmission in the face of any subnational surveillance gaps,” he says. “We still don’t have an exact idea of virus transmission in some areas of Borno. Operationally, we have to therefore assume that it remains an infected area and our focus has to be on reaching the children with the vaccine, all the while plugging the surveillance holes.” 

A major part of the problem is that in the area where the cases of polio were discovered in Borno, the health system is decimated, impeding the discovery and reporting of the poliovirus. In December, WHO health monitors reported that 35 percent of 743 health facilities in Borno were destroyed and 29 percent were damaged. Sixty percent of the remaining health sites have no access to safe water. 

But it’s not just the breakdown of the health system that is causing the problem. Until recent military incursions by the Nigerian government, Boko Haram occupied more than half of Borno. And, unlike the Taliban, which controls areas of Afghanistan (one of only two other countries that have yet to eradicate polio), Boko Haram does not negotiate with vaccinators who want to enter areas they are in. 

This five-year-old living in the camp was one of the four children with polio discovered in Nigeria in 2016 and is now receiving medical attention.

Nigeria isn’t the only area of the world that has regions with limited access. The GPEI has begun an extensive analysis of surveillance in other countries to ensure that the Nigerian “blind spot” isn’t a problem elsewhere. “Boko Haram makes many parts of the area virtually inaccessible. Depending on where Boko Haram is, that can be inclusive of bordering countries,” Pallansch says. “It will take some time to gather information and analyze it properly. But at a first pass it’s not quite as worrying as some may think, except in those areas we already know are problems. In places like South Sudan and parts of the Horn of Africa, the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan, we’re intensifying our efforts.

“In a sense, the situation in Borno is a good comparison to the global situation,” Pallansch says. “Ninety-nine percent of Nigeria is polio-free. But unless you eradicate the disease completely, the rest of the country will remain at risk. The same holds true globally: 99 percent of the world is polio-free. But all countries remain at risk until we finish the job everywhere.”

A surge in vaccinations

Through genetic testing of stool samples taken from the new polio patients, the GPEI traced the poliovirus to a strain that emerged in Chad almost five years ago and circulated through Chad and parts of Nigeria. It had been eliminated from accessible areas, but it turns out that it never left parts of northern Nigeria.

The discovery triggered an increase in vaccinations in other countries that have similarly inaccessible areas. In Nigeria alone, more than 850,000 children were vaccinated in the first five days after the cases were discovered, according to the country’s health minister. And Nigerian border countries coordinated efforts to increase protection of their own polio-free status. 

The very nature of the GPEI’s system being at once a very large network of worldwide organizations and small groups such as Rotary clubs made up of local residents is what helped the teams respond so quickly to the new information, Pallansch says. “The system itself means there is surge capacity. No one place has to stand on its own. There are always other places within the system that can help,” he says. Because of that, the Polio Eradication Initiative continues on pace – revealing weak points where they may exist and fixing them – but still marching toward that day when polio is gone for good.

After certification, the polio surveillance network is likely to continue providing services. It has already been used to help contain other deadly diseases such as Ebola and measles, and there are ongoing discussions about what the surveillance strategy will be after polio, according to a spokesperson at WHO. The biggest question is how that network can be maintained so that it can go on hunting for other diseases. 

• Erin Biba is a science journalist whose work regularly appears in Newsweek, Scientific American, and BBC.com.

• Read more stories in The Rotarian

https://www.rotary.org/en/how-rotary-stopping-polio-nigeria

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