Bungay man helps fight against polio

A MEMBER of the Rotary Club of Bungay has just returned from India where he was playing his part in the global challenge to eradicate polio from the planet.

A MEMBER of the Rotary Club of Bungay has just returned from India where he was playing his part in the global challenge to eradicate polio from the planet.

Chris Staines, a past president of the club, who is set to take on that role again this year, was the only East Anglian Rotarian to make the trip, spending a week in Delhi with 80 others from the movement as part of the country's National Immunisation Day.

During his trip he helped to immunise around 450 children against the potentially fatal and crippling illness - and he found it an immensely worthwhile and rewarding experience.

The momentous challenge to eradicate polio began back in 1985. More recently Microsoft tycoon Bill Gates and his wife have personally given �350m towards it, with Rotary being called on to match �200m of that - and Rotary members worldwide are behind it.

Back at his home at St Margaret's Road, Mr Staines said the party was split into four different groups - he worked with one in Madipur, a suburb of Delhi. Everyone worked in teams of four, with one administering the vaccine orally to each child, another marking the finger with an indelible dye to indicated they have been vaccinated, another giving them a small gift and the fourth ticking them off a list - though many lived in shacks and hovels with no specific address.

Bungay Rotary Club donated an amount of money to enable Mr Staines to provide some of the gifts - other clubs have done the same.

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And the day after completing their session, they went out into the streets with health visitors, knocking on doors to find those who had not been inoculated and encouraging them to be treated

The push to eradicate polio has made great strides over the years, and now it is confined mainly to India, Nigeria, and Afghanistan. In India, two of the four strains have been eradicated - the one Mr Staines and his colleagues were working on was strain three.

“It was a particularly poor area we were working in, with many of the children living in shacks and hovels, but even in the poorest areas they keep themselves clean and well dressed,” he said.

Mr Staines, whose work internationally for Rotary has seen him also spend time in Zambia helping to locate water sources to sink wells, said the trip was a truly remarkable experience.

“We hear so much about it and it has been in the forefront of Rotary planning since 1985. Throughout that period out club has raised considerable sums of money towards it - last year we sent �1800. It was so rewarding to be able to go out there and see how this money was being used and to get involved hands on with these children, and know you were doing something really worthwhile.”

“Every time you were putting drops into a child's mouth you were preventing the spread of the disease. Every child you were immunising meant you were reducing the likelihood of it spreading.

“I had never been to India before, and it was seeing the India tourists don't normally see, in basic living conditions, but very friendly, helpful and peaceful communities. They maintain a high level of dignity,” he said. “It was quite a cultural experience.”

During his trip Mr Staines had the opportunity to visit projects the Rotary movement has been involved in, including a cancer hospital in Delhi, and a Rotary blood bank. He also attended a Rotary cocktail party, and presented the Rotary governor for that district of Delhi with a Bungay Rotary Club banner.

BBC Television presenter Konnie Huq and producer Emma Conway were there making a film of the vaccinating process and Mr Staines was among those interviewed for it.

Along with other Rotary clubs nationwide, Bungay is taking part in Thanks for Life Day on February 23 - the date the movement was founded in 1905 - with a window display in the town centre on what Rotary is, the End Polio Now project and inviting donations towards it, and information on Rotary activities both in the community and internationally, and how you can join.