The Final Push on Polio – RESULTS London Health for All Event

27 Oct 2015

London grassroots volunteer Asad Rahman reflects on RESULTS London Health for All event which took pace at University College London last week. Global health can sometimes be a scary place. Infectious disease, such as Malaria and HIV/AIDS, dominate media channels and the popular conscience. More recently the Ebola epidemic in West Africa seemed to confirm – and reinforce – this narrative of doom. With this in mind, it was a breath of fresh air to attend the London RESULTS Group event on The Final Push to rid the world of Polio. With help from the inspirational Faleke Bolanle (a Health Educator who has helped deliver and educate people about the polio vaccines in Lagos, Nigeria for over 10 years), we celebrated the success of volunteers and health workers around the world in bringing polio down to its final few cases – and looked with hope towards a final push to end it once and for all. The event began with an intro from Jim Calverley, Parliamentary Advocacy Officer for RESULTS UK to set the scene, followed by a screening of the film The Final Inch. This was a documentary on the effort to eradicate polio in India – the largest non-military operation in the world. The sheer effort and scale of this was clear as the film followed a couple of volunteers travelling door-by-door in remote villages, administering two drops of the oral polio vaccine to every child. Through their effort, and against all the odds, India is now polio-free. After the screening, Faleke told us of her own story as a Health Educator in the struggle against polio. Her persistence and dedication shone through; Faleke has become famous in her part of Lagos for just not leaving parents alone until their children are vaccinated. Alison and Faleke Something else that struck me was how important the local knowledge of Faleke was in this operation. To me it seemed that without her sensitivity to her local community, the operation to eradicate polio wouldn’t have gotten off the ground. Similarly in India, The Final Inch discussed how only Muslim health workers were trusted to vaccinate in Muslim households, and at times local religious leaders had to intervene to give their blessing to the operation. What is special about this network of extremely dedicated and highly knowledgeable volunteers like Faleke is not only what it has achieved, but the potential they have as part of a country's health infrastructure. As we ask donors to step up and finance the eradication of polio once and for all, this argument must play a powerful role. Investing in a final push won't just have the benefit of ridding the world of a horrible disease, but build capacity to spot and eliminate other health threats in the future. At one point in the evening, the audience (of about 50) stood up in silence for a minute. We weren't standing in mourning, but in reflection and gratitude at the hundreds of thousands of volunteers who have made this global health success story possible. With one final push, we can give the story a truly happy ending.

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Naveed Chaudhri

Head of Campaigns

Naveed Chaudhri is the Head of Campaigns. Naveed’s passion is to help build grassroots campaigns networks to increase public support for improving the lives of people in poor communities. Previously working at Oxfam and VSO, he has long experience managing activism and campaigning programmes,...

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