Ayuba Gufwan Speaks for Polio Survivors at the World Health Organization in Geneva
Ninety-nine percent of polio has been eradicated around the world, but eradicating that final one percent is proving very difficult and expensive. In June 2010, the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, the Center for Disease Control, UNICEF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others launched a new round of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative to raise funds for the effort and overcome donor fatigue. If the battle against polio is not won, that one percent could easily grow and begin spreading to polio-free areas.
Ayuba Gufwan was invited to come to Geneva and speak to the conference on behalf of polio survivors. Other speakers were the Director-General of the WHO, Executive Director of UNICEF, Chairman of the Rotary Foundation, President of Global Health for the Gates Foundation, and top health officials from Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Senegal, Angola and India. Ayuba was the only polio survivor invited to speak!
We have had wonderful encouragement from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but we have not received any money for wheelchairs from them, nor do we ever expect to. Treating victims of disease is not their focus or purpose. The Gates Foundation has focused all their health initiatives on overcoming disease through research, inoculation campaigns and other means. We applaud this wholeheartedly. If they diluted these efforts by funding treatment of disease victims around the world, it would be a bottomless pit. They have the size and clout and money to make a huge difference in eradicating major diseases, something few others can do.
We are pleased that Ayuba was put on the world stage in Geneva so that he could give voice to those tens of thousands of voiceless polio survivors who spend their lives crawling on the ground.
We are most appreciative as well that the Rotary Foundation gave us two large grants in 2010, which provided a badly needed generator for the shop, welding machines and other tools, a used delivery truck, and supplies for hundreds of wheelchairs. These Rotary wheelchairs are being given out by Rotary clubs all over Nigeria to polio victims, which is raising the awareness and visibility of these forgotten children and adults and giving them a future. The guidelines specify that the Rotary clubs will be on-going sponsors for these beneficiaries, making sure school fees are paid or the adults are in vocational training or apprenticeships. These are matching grants, so the Wheelchair Fund is providing the labor. Rotary International is to be highly commended, for they have been working for decades and have raised hundreds of millions of dollars to eradicate polio.