Polio is a crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease, polio (poliomyelitis) still strikes children mainly under the age of five in countries in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. As long as polio threatens even one child anywhere in the world, children everywhere remain at risk. The stakes are that high.
Polio can cause paralysis and sometimes death. Because there is no cure for polio, the best protection is prevention. For as little as US$0.60 worth of vaccine, a child can be protected against this crippling disease for life. It can cause paralysis within hours, and polio paralysis is almost always irreversible. In the most severe cases, polio attacks the motor neurons of the brain stem, causing breathing difficulty or even death. Historically, polio has been the world’s greatest cause of disability.
If polio isn’t eradicated, the world will continue to live under the threat of the disease. More than 10 million children will be paralyzed in the next 40 years if the world fails to capitalize on its US$5 billion global investment in eradication.
Guatemala Eye Clinic
The Mayans in Guatemala are desperately poor and have been driven from their traditional lands into the mountains in the north of the country. Families cook on three-rock fires inside their modest homes and the health problems which result include severe respiratory conditions, blindness in women as young as 30 and terrible burns to the toddlers.
In late 2003 the Rotary Club of Perth sent the first monies to Guatemala to build masonry stoves for indigenous Mayans. The masonry stoves use much less fuel wood, so cut down on deforestation and of course remove the wood smoke from inside the homes. In 2004 a Rotarian from each of the Perth and Cataraqui/Kingston clubs traveled to Guatemala to help build stoves and monitor our project. They were pleased to see that within a month of receiving a stove, the families’ health improved dramatically. In all, the club raised $32,000 to build 250 stoves. The final installment of funds, nearly $10,000 in grant money from CIDA became available in early 2005.
Once freed from having to squat on the dirt floor feeding a fire all day, the women of the households also gained the time for other pursuits. They found time to teach their children, work in vegetable gardens and work to earn income.
This humanitarian project was greatly enhanced by the generosity and work of many groups coming together. CRCID (CIDA), The Rotary Foundation, and Rotary District 7040 all donated grant money. The Rotary Club of Guatemala del Este also contributed. And most importantly the dedicated volunteers from The Guatemala Stove Project begun by Perth Area people Ali Ross and Tom Clarke provided contacts, guidance and inspiration.
The Rotary Club of Perth plans to continue our direct contact with the Mayans of Guatemala to improve their health and the education of their children.