The following article by Emeka Aginam was published by Vanguard on June 25, 2013. To see the original article, please click here.

Offor donates $1m to Rotary’s polio eradication

By Emeka Aginam, in Lisbon, Portugal

In his committed effort to join in the total eradication of Polio globally, especially in Nigeria, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Chrome Group, Sir. Emeka Offor yesterday at the ongoing 2013  Rotary International Convention in Lisbon,  Portugal announced additional donation of $1 million to Rotary International.

Currently,  Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the countries where the wild polio virus  has never been stopped.

In his presentation yesterday during a PolioPlus workshop,   at the convention, he told the gathering that a defining moment for him was when he received confirmation from Rotary that his initial $250,000 contribution to PolioPlus was  used immediately in the campaign to eradicate the terrible disease.

“In Nigeria, we have lost friends to polio and other dreaded diseases. But polio should have no place in our world. Therefore, today I am giving an additional $1 million to PolioPlus.

“I hope that my giving will inspire others, with means far greater than mine, to join the fight to end polio in Nigeria. Polio can be eradicated in my country, in my life time, and it will be. 

“It is my deepest hope that my financial contribution and my work with the Rotary leadership in Nigeria will inspire all Nigerians to work together to bring about the final, permanent, and irreversible eradication of polio”

Offor who is committed to the global campaign to end Polio especially in Nigeria while making the announcement noted that many countries have prevailed in eradicating polio, adding that  this terrible disease still exists in Nigeria.

Since the inception of PolioPlus, he informed that Rotarians have contributed more than $160 million to eradication activities in Nigeria. 

These funds, he said have supported the work of our partners, the World Health Organization and UNICEF in Nigeria. 

The gifts, according to him, have also supported Rotarian volunteers working to immunize and to raise awareness of the eradication initiative throughout the country.

Last December, he said that a team of Indian Rotarian doctors and volunteers came to Abuja to carry out nearly 400 surgeries on children with polio, giving them greater comfort, mobility, and life opportunities. 

“We are utilizing a Rotary model that was effectively used in India to help dispel myths and fallacies surrounding immunizations in the remaining pockets of those communities where resistance is evident” he said.

He said that he would further use his strong friendship with the Nigerian government   to support the eradication of polio in  the country.

“I come from humble beginnings. Today I have ties all over the world.  I have the ability to help others escape the poverty and deprivation that I experienced.  This goal drives me each and every day.

“Considerable effort is being made to eradicate polio in Nigeria, but at times progress is slow.  In 2011, we had 62 documented cases of polio.  In 2012, that number increased to 122.  This year 26 cases have been documented so far.

“The Global Polio Eradication Initiative has a target date of 2018 for the total eradication of polio, and we Rotarians must do all that we can to make that goal a reality.

“For some time now, we have had security challenges in parts of northeastern Nigeria. This state of affairs has bred widespread public safety and security concerns throughout the entire Northern region and beyond. This environment has further complicated implementation of public health activities, including the campaign to eradicate polio” he said.

Offor who is Aks Foundation Circle member, Rotary Foundation of Rotary International said that there still  exists a high level of suspicion about immunizations, particularly in the north part of Nigeria.

“Several immunization campaigns for other diseases in the past, according to him went badly and caused great harm to children in some communities.

“This history is a major obstacle to our efforts to totally eradicate polio today. Many parents simply refuse immunizations for their children because they fear that some evil motives are at play or even fear perceived bad side effects.

“An additional problem is reaching the nomadic and remote populations that are often strongholds for the disease. Even in the best of times, Government capacity to reach these “hidden populations” is severely limited.

“So with this high-powered support, when Trustee Chair Wilkinson asked me to join the Fundraising arm of the National PolioPlus Committee for Nigeria, I readily agreed.” he explained.

With optimism, he said that Rotary can continue to encourage Nigeria´s leaders at all levels to provide critical support for the polio immunization teams.

According to Offor who is passionate about empowerment ,  the National Emergency Action Plan that has been established by the government will continue to play an important role in our success. 

“However, we still have work to do. We must educate community, political, religious, and civic leaders on the importance of this initiative. Their relevance should not be underestimated. 

“Rotarians in Nigeria are committed to utilizing our more than 6,000 member network to support the program.” , the Executive Vice Chairman of the Chrome Group said.