Rotarians respond to polio-affected family’s needs in Pakistan
Top: At a polio eradication workshop in Karachi, Sind, Pakistan, Shahid Afridi meets two brothers who are polio survivors. Bottom: Afridi administers oral polio vaccine to the third brother, who was also vaccinated as an infant; it takes multiple doses to be fully immunized against the disease. Standing behind the child is Pakistan National PolioPlus Committee Chair Aziz Memon. Photos courtesy of Aziz Memon
A polio-affected Afghan family living in Karachi, Sind, Pakistan, found Rotary a ready source of help in a time of great need.
In 2008, two boys in the family contracted polio. Their father took them to the Artificial Limbs Center run by the Rotary Club of Karachi. There, the brothers were fitted with prosthetic limbs free of charge, thanks to the generous support of local Rotarians.
The center provides about 5,000 prosthetics free of cost every year to polio victims and amputees and is a permanent polio immunization site serving the surrounding population. Not wanting his third son to suffer from polio, the father had him vaccinated against the disease.
In July, Karachi Rotarians invited the three brothers to meet international cricketing superstar Shahid Afridi at a polio eradication workshop. Afridi is active in Pakistan’s antipolio effort and a participant in Rotary’s “This Close” campaign.
“[He] greeted them warmly and shook hands with the boys and their father,” says Pakistan National PolioPlus Committee Chair Aziz Memon.
At the workshop, representatives from the World Health Organization, UNICEF, Rotary, and Pakistan’s government provided updates on the areas of the country at high risk for polio and outlined communications strategies, emphasizing the government’s leadership role in the eradication campaign.
Afridi, a Pashtun from the Khyber Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, also addressed the workshop. In 2011, Pashtuns accounted for more than 75 percent of Pakistan’s polio cases although the group makes up only 15 percent of the population.
“[He] said he shared our vision and was ready to support us in this battle against polio and pledged his involvement with Rotary as needed,” says Memon. “We have seen the support that celebrities of this stature can bring to national awareness efforts in other countries, and we have no doubt that Mr. Afridi will boost interest in the campaign and in ensuring that every child in Pakistan is vaccinated.”