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Great news on World Polio Day

The BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in Gipsy Lane, Leicester, bathed in purple light and with its sign wishing everyone a happy Diwali

October 24 every year is designated as World Polio Day to raise awareness of Rotary International’s 34-year campaign to rid the entire world of the disease which used to kill and cripple thousands of people every year.

In 1985 there were more than 1,000 new cases diagnosed every day. So far this year, there have been just 33 new cases across the whole world.

World Polio Day 2019 was extra special. Rotary and its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative announced that wild poliovirus type 3 (WPV3) has been eradicated worldwide. WPV3 is only the third infectious human disease-causing pathogen to be eradicated in history, following smallpox and wild poliovirus type 2.

This achievement means that two of the three wild polio strains have now been wiped out, an important marker of progress against the disease. The announcement comes on the heels of recent news that Nigeria has gone three years without a case of wild poliovirus, which means that the entire African region could be certified wild poliovirus-free in 2020.

Rotary has contributed nearly 1.2 billion US Dollars and countless volunteer hours to the protection of more than two billion children in 122 countries.The Rotary clubs of Leicester and Leicester Novus marked the day by bathing four faith buildings in the city in purple light — purple being the colour of the ink used to mark the little fingers of the children after they had received the polio immunisation by Rotary and other volunteers.

Leicester Cathedral illuminated by polio-purple spotlights

The four buildings were the Swaminarayan Hindu temple in Gipsy Lane, the Guru Tegh Bahadur Sikh gurdwara in East Park Road, the Masjid Umar mosque in Evington and Leicester Cathedral.

Novus President Maya Vansia, attending an Evensong service at the cathedral, thanked all the faith communities for their hospitality and allowing Rotary to use their buildings.

After the service at the cathedral, District Governor Rodney Spokes, a member of the Leicester cub, spoke about the campaign by Rotary and the support it had received from others, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is currently giving two dollars for every one dollar raised by Rotary.

Mark Esho, a member of the Novus club, spoke from his wheelchair about his experiences as a polio survivor and about the effects that polio still has on him, half a century after he contracted the disease in Leicestershire.

The Guru Tegh Bahadur Gurdwara, East Park Road.
Photo: Channi Riyait

Members of the running charity Goodgym ran between the four venues taking small packets of purple crocus corms for distribution and fundraising.

The Goodgym runners with their banner alongisde the Rotary End Polio Now banner at the BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir

Last edited: 214:00 on October 25, 2019