Rotarians join polio fight in India

PUBLISHED: 08:00 15 December 2010

Rotarians Jon Erskine and John Horne in Lucknow

Rotarians Jon Erskine and John Horne in Lucknow

Archant

TWO Weston Rotary Club members experienced the trip of a lifetime as they travelled to India to join in the fight against Polio.

Jon Erskine and John Horne, of the West Woodspring Rotary Club, flew out to the sub-continent in November to join Rotarians from across the world for National Immunisation Day in November.

After the Rotary movement pledged to eradicate polio worldwide, cases have fallen from around 350,000 to just 648.

The two, both from Chapel Allerton, travelled to the city of Lucknow in the north of the country to help hundreds of teams who were trying to immunise children in the area.

Mr Horne, aged 76, said: “I wanted to see for myself just how serious the situation is in India as polio, which the UK is now rid of, damages so many lives, and for those who survive their life is one of agony, limited mobility, and hardship in later years.

“Polio has just about been wiped out in India now, but until the last case is treated the country won’t be officially free from it.

“It’s actually quite shocking from our perspective to see what conditions people live in over there. There is a huge gap between the rich and the poor.

“Dirty water runs through open drains, children play in rubbish and people make their homes out of waste.

“It is almost impossible to accept that people live in such horrendous conditions in this day and age.”

Mr Erskine, aged 69, said: “There were 60 immunisation centres around Lucknow, which were basically gazebos on the side of the road with a bench, and people would just come along and have their children immunised. After they were immunised, we’d dye their fingers to show that they were done.

“The whole scene was frantic, it was absolute chaos, but it was all done.”

As well as taking part in the immunisation campaign, the two also got a chance to visit different sites around the country, and say they were awed by its sheer size.

Mr Erskine said: “There are 1.2billion people in the country and it’s just absolutely massive. Each state is bigger than the whole of England. It was completely different to anything I’d ever seen before.”

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