Monthly Archives: November 2015

Washington Post article: By tracing cellphones, Pakistan makes inroads in war against polio

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A Pakistani health worker administers a polio drop to a child during a vaccination campaign in Peshawar. (A Majeed/AFP/Getty Images)

I’m probably going to get into trouble for this… (sigh).  If anyone from the Washington  Post objects to me reprinting their article on Polio Eradication that appeared in the Post on November 18th, contact me and I will gladly take down this post.  (Note to Washington Post:  Please don’t sue me because I still have to make my Paul Harris Society contribution to the Rotary Foundation for this year.)  I thought Tim Craig’s reporting was fantastic and the news continues to be positive.  I know my RFA readers will be disappointed that Rotary (once again) isn’t more prominently mentioned in this article, although a quote from Aziz Memon, chair of Rotary International’s Pakistan PolioPlus Committee, is included in the discussion about women being an important part of a successful new strategy to reach Pakistani households.   You will be glad to know that RI’s PR department is gearing up for a worldwide public image campaign about polio eradication once we’ve got this thing licked.  In the meantime, enjoy this account of what is going on with Pakistan’s effort to eradicate polio.

November 18

In a surprising turnaround, Pakistan appears to be finally getting a handle on its polio epidemic, thanks to unorthodox tactics such as tracking residents’ cellphones.

The 85 percent decline in new cases this year is boosting confidence that Pakistani officials are on pace to stop the spread of the virus here, perhaps as early as next year. If Pakistan can achieve that goal, the world will take a major step toward becoming ­polio-free.

In late September, the World Health Organization declared that polio was no longer “endemic” in Nigeria, leaving only Pakistan and Afghanistan on the list of countries where the crippling virus continues to spread.

The revelation that the CIA had used a fake vaccination campaign to gain intelligence on the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden in 2011 had been a huge blow to Pakistan’s efforts against the disease, especially in areas where Islamist militant groups were strong.

But as the militants have loosened their grip on Pakistan’s northwestern tribal belt, health officials are vaccinating hundreds of thousands of children for the first time.

As a result, Pakistan has reported 40 new polio cases this year, compared with about 240 at this time last year. Pakistani officials say they believe they are on track to vaccinate nearly all children younger than 5 by next summer.

“If the next few vaccination rounds are implemented, and we continue to reach all the children we need to reach, we should be home very soon,” said Mazhar Nisar, head of Pakistan’s emergency polio office. “The key challenge had been security, but now the government has taken that on head-on.”

Many international health experts remain skeptical that Pakistan can rise to that challenge, citing bureaucratic obstacles and uncertainty that the country’s improved security can be maintained. Last month’s earthquake, which killed more than 200 and left tens of thousands of residents homeless, served as a reminder that Pakistan has a reputation as a magnet for crises that quickly distract political leaders and relief organizations.

But Hamid Jafari, director of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative for the WHO, said Pakistan’s government has shown progress as it lurched onto a war footing to combat the disease.

“You see the senior officers of security agencies, and the Pakistan army, now sitting with program managers in emergency operations centers co-planning and co-coordinating,” Jafari said. “You get a very good sense that all the ministries of the government are involved.”

That coordination began late last year as Pakistan’s army pressed into North Waziristan, which had been controlled by Taliban militants and was largely off-limits to vaccination teams.

When more than 100,000 families were evacuated from the area, they were stopped at roadside checkpoints and forced to take a drop of the polio vaccine.

Later, when the displaced residents were registered at refugee camps, they were given a surprising offer: free SIM cards for their phones.

Unbeknownst to the recipients, health officials used the SIM cards to track them as they resettled in other parts of the country. Their locations were mapped in new polio-eradication command centers. When clusters of residents from North Waziristan were identified, teams were sent out to again administer the vaccine.

“We were able to trace them, map them and follow up with them,” said Safdar Rana, head of Pakistan’s Program on Immunization.

The controversial strategy was combined with outreach to religious leaders, the creation of community health centers and a renewed push to put women — not men — on the front lines of the campaign to eradicate polio. But as with many other aspects of life here, the battle against polio is inextricably linked to efforts to overcome the threat posed by Islamist militancy.

Attacks on polio vaccination teams, provoked by the CIA ruse in 2011, resulted in the deaths of 74 people from 2012 to 2014, including 41 last year. So far this year, however, the number of deaths has dropped to 10, according to government figures.

With security improving, health officials are able to vaccinate more children. They estimate that just 16,000 to 18,000 Pakistani children are still “inaccessible” to vaccinators compared with the half-million who were out of reach two years ago.

Back then, that large reservoir of unvaccinated children in North Waziristan and a few other places threatened to become an incubator from which the virus could spread to other countries.

In 2013 and 2014, for the first time in more than a decade, 36 new infections were reported in Syria while two cases surfaced in Iraq. Health officials said they believe the virus was transported to the Middle East from Pakistan. The new cases horrified the WHO, which began publicly shaming Pakistani leaders to step up their response.

Since then, Jafari said, there has been considerable progress in the global fight against polio. The last reported case in the Middle East was in April 2014. The last reported case in Africa was in Somalia in August 2014. Nigeria has not reported a new case since July 2014.

But the gains made in Pakistan this year are threatened by continued insecurity across the border in Afghanistan, Jafari said. To be declared “polio-free,” Pakistan and Afghanistan must go three years without any reported cases, he added.

Vaccinators have been unable to reach 30,000 to 60,000 Afghan children because security has worsened in eastern provinces, Jafari said, in part because Pakistan’s military has driven thousands of militants across the border. So far this year, 13 new polio cases have been reported in Afghanistan, a slight increase over last year’s pace, Jafari said.

The continued potential for cross-border spread of the ­virus has health officials gearing up for a new fundraising drive. The five-year, $5.5 billion budget for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative will be depleted at the end of 2018. An additional $1.5 billion will need to be spent to continue the campaign through 2019, Jafari said.

In Pakistan, the money has helped pay for 2,000 community health centers that entice parents with basic health-care services and provide an opportunity for medical staffers to vaccinate children.

Pakistani officials also report success in recruiting 4,000 “community volunteers,” with a special focus on attracting women to the jobs who become the public face of vaccination campaigns in their neighborhoods. In conservative areas, mothers are more likely to invite another woman into the house than they are a man.

“This has been a game-changer because now they are able to reach households we missed earlier,” said Aziz Memon, chair of Rotary International’s Pakistan PolioPlus Committee.

Officials also arranged a series of meetings with religious leaders to try to enlist their support in combating rumors that the vaccine can make children sterile or gay.

As for the tracking of North Waziristan residents, Rana said the SIM cards were initially designed to give the government a way to notify the displaced residents about when they could pick up cash assistance payments. Intelligence agencies also had an interest in keeping tabs on where the displaced residents were, according to government officials familiar with the matter.

But when someone suggested that the SIM cards could also be used in the fight against polio, Rana said that his office, the army and the country’s telecommunications office quickly implemented a plan that involved the tracking of about 75,000 families.

“We saw an opportunity, and we took that opportunity,” Rana said. “We will continue to look for opportunities to finish this job.”

Read more:

Muslim scholars join vaccination effort as violence hinders Pakistan polio drive

CIA vaccine program used in bin Laden hunt sparks criticism

Polio fighters in Pakistan struggle against myths and realities

Shaiq Hussain contributed to this report.

Tim Craig is The Post’s bureau chief in Pakistan. He has also covered conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and within the District of Columbia government.
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A Great PR Idea for Multiple Rotary Clubs


2015 Rotary cover

 

Rotarian Becky Mangus and business partner, former Rotarian Cathy Yost, own the Business Monthly.  Each year they do a Rotary Salute that promotes Rotary and the various Rotary clubs that serve the Howard County and Anne Arundel County area.  This year’s insert is 16 pages full of articles about Rotary Youth Exchange, Rotary Tidbits, short pieces about the Rotary Foundation and Rotary International, our District’s Young Professional Summit and Peace and Conflict Transformation workshop, a nice story about polio eradication, and a variety of articles about club projects.   The ads are purchased by Rotary clubs and Rotarian-owned businesses in the area.

The insert is a wonderful PR tool and it can be used as a stand alone piece to educate potential members about Rotary.  It’s a great handout for club visitors.  The real beauty of this insert is that the clubs buy ads each year that pay for the piece, so any local newspaper could do the same kind of thing.  Why not see if your local paper would be willing to create a Rotary insert paid for by ads about the clubs that participate?  If you are in the local business community, you read the Business Monthly.  Last month their 75,000 readers learned about Rotary in a format that was impressive and, unlike Facebook, doesn’t scroll down the page and disappear.  (Which is one of those not to be forgotten benefits of traditional media.)  Thank you Becky, Cathy, and all of the clubs that participate!

Each year the District Governor buys an ad (of course) and gets the privilege of writing the District Governor’s Letter for the Rotary Salute.   I thought I would share my letter with all of my long-suffering RFA readers.  Would a message like this resonate with the readers of your local paper?  As you will see, I have no problems making bold predictions about Rotary membership.  In this case, I predict Rotary membership is about to explode higher.  Why?  Well….read on.

 

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Rotary Membership Is About to Dramatically Increase

I believe Rotary membership is about to dramatically increase in Howard and Anne Arundel counties, and across the rest of Rotary District 7620 in Maryland, the United States and around the world. An increase in Rotary membership would be welcome news for the local and international community, because Rotarians have been consistently improving the quality of life in Howard and Anne Arundel counties, and in the state of Maryland, for close to 100 years.

Why am I so sure that membership is going to increase? There are a number of forces at work that are going to make Rotary membership extremely attractive to individuals looking for an opportunity to serve.

One reason to be optimistic about the growth of Rotary in Maryland is an increasing awareness that the unique value proposition of Rotary is still highly valuable for many concerned citizens. Rotarians seek to do community service both locally and around the world. Additionally, While helping others, Rotarians develop strong relationships that help them to develop their business and community interests over time.

Finally, because Rotary clubs meet on a systematic basis, the clubs are wonderful venues to form special and long-lasting friendships. This combination of service, networking and fellowship has been the “secret sauce” of Rotary since the organization was founded.

So what is different today?

For the first time in years, Rotarians are recognizing that Rotary clubs have an opportunity to effect extraordinary positive change in their local communities by working together. Howard County currently has seven very active Rotary clubs. Anne Arundel County currently has nine active clubs.

Traditionally, each club independently approaches community service through a variety of projects. In the case of Howard and Anne Arundel, I estimate that there are a collective total of more than 50 small and important service projects completed each year.

As these clubs begin to better coordinate their efforts, their work is going to be more visible to their neighbors. The scale of the projects they do is going to increase, the impact on local community problems will be dramatic, and Rotary’s efforts will consequently be more newsworthy.

In short, communities are going to be reminded that Rotary is a powerful force for good, and interested parties will want to participate.

Rotary itself is recognizing that without a more proactive approach to promoting itself and the work we do, as well as a new approach to scaling the service work we do through partnerships, the organization is in danger of losing its brand as one of the world’s preeminent service organizations.

With an urgent new focus on promoting change in Rotary clubs worldwide, Rotary International is asking Rotary clubs to be more creative and innovative in meeting the needs of a new generation of members. With clubs finding ways to significantly reduce membership costs while at the same time increasing the flexibility of attendance requirements, Rotary membership will once again have to be considered by anyone who is serious about making a positive difference in his or her hometown and around the world.

At the same time Rotary is recognizing a need to change, other forces that are positive for Rotary are emerging. Baby Boomers are now becoming “empty nesters” and for the first time are considering how they can “give back” to the community.

For many, an accident of history has meant that they weren’t called to serve in the armed forces. And for many, our secular society has not offered them an obvious way to serve others while they were focused on family and career. For this group, Rotary represents an important opportunity to “give back” in terms of time, expertise and treasure. They will find that Rotary’s core value proposition uniquely fits their need to serve, to network and to meet new and interesting like-minded people.

Interestingly, baby boomers are also finding that their social networks are beginning to unravel.  As they reach retirement age, many are realizing that their friends from the kids soccer and other school-oriented pursuits are leaving town to chase the sunshine…or the kids and grandkids.  Rotary as a place to find and build new friendships is an interesting value proposition for boomers seeking to rebuild their networks.

While baby boomers are finding themselves with time on their hands, echo boomers and millennials are faced with a time crunch. Careers for both parents, along with the demands of parenting itself, make time management a precious commodity. Many are hiring career and/or life coaches who counsel time-crunched young professionals to join leads clubs and other networking organizations to maximize their time and form important relationships.

This group is about to find out that Rotary is the best dollar-for-dollar networking opportunity in town. In fact, Rotary has been called the “original social network.” Rotarians have been influencers in their town and business community for years, and doing community service side by side with a Rotarian is the best way to develop real and rewarding relationships. In addition, many young professionals will benefit from real-world opportunities to practice leadership skills afforded to Rotary club members.

Finally, Rotary International is on the brink of pulling off what is perhaps the single most important achievement in public health history: the eradication of the wild polio virus. After 36 years of diligent work, the partnership of Rotary International, the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control, UNICEF, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is getting very close to achieving its goal. As this achievement becomes recognized, Rotary will receive an unprecedented amount of well-deserved public recognition, again spurring service-minded people to learn more about the organization.

All of the above is providing a powerful cocktail for membership growth in Rotary. If you would like to learn more about Rotary, visit www.Rotary.org. You will find a Rotary club that meets either in the morning, at lunch or in the evening, in a location near you. Visit one soon. You will like the people that you are going to meet.

Respectfully,

     Ken Solow, District Governor

     Rotary District 7620

Becky/Cathy 2
Business Monthly owners Becky Mangus (L) and Cathy Yost

 

YOU CAN SUBSCRIBE TO THE READY, FIRE, AIM ROTARY BLOG AND GET NOTIFICATIONS OF NEW POSTS DIRECTLY TO YOUR INBOX BY CLICKING THE SUBSCRIBE BUTTON TO THE RIGHT OF THE BLOG TEXT.  YOU CAN FOLLOW KEN SOLOW ON TWITTER AT @KENNETHRSOLOW.  PLEASE LIKE THE DISTRICT 7620 FACEBOOK PAGE.

The Magic of Thinking Big in Rotary

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When asked, “why doesn’t Rotary spend more money on PR?”, RI President Ravi Ravindran responded with the easily predictable answer, “We don’t have the money to do a massive media campaign.”  But what he said next was worthy of our attention.  Speaking to a Town Hall Meeting of forty District 7620 Club Presidents, he related the following advice.  “If you want to solve all of your membership and PR problems, find a solution to a major problem in your community.  We have many smart Rotarians in our clubs.  Come up with the plan and the sweat equity to get the project done.  Don’t worry about the money.  The money will find you.  When the community understands that Rotary helped solve an important problem in your town, all of your membership and PR problems will be solved.”

My initial thought upon hearing this advice, coming from a guy who built what…twenty two elementary schools and a hospital in his home country of Sri Lanka, was ARE YOU KIDDING?  Who is going to teach our clubs how to do deals like that?  But the more I think of it, the more I think he is exactly right. What important, impactful, community changing projects are we involved with in our Rotary clubs?  And how do you figure out how to do such a project?  Who do you partner with?  How do you assess the big needs in your community?  How do you get the funding?  I’ve come to the conclusion that we might not be thinking big enough in Rotary, at least at the club level.

While I’m on the subject of The Magic of Thinking Big, let me strongly recommend you read the classic book on the subject by David J. Schwartz.  It’s one of those books that might change your life.

Here’s a real life “big idea” story that just happened in Zone 33-34.  When the DG class of 2015-16 first got together as DGN’s, they took the measure of each other and realized that collectively they had a remarkable lack of ego.  As they got to know each other better the notion of doing a service project together was broached over an appropriate number of beverages at a hospitality suite at the following year’s Zone Institute in Asheville, NC.   After watching a spellbinding presentation by Marion Bunch, Founder and CEO of the  Rotary Action Group, Rotarians for Family Health and Aids Prevention (RFFHA), at that same Institute, Marion was asked a simple question.  Since we had 29 Districts in our Zone, and if hypothetically all of them contributed $2,000 of DDF to a project, and if we got matched by TRF dollar for dollar, then we would be dealing with a chunk of change of about $116,000. The question was, “hey…can we do a deal with you where we can fund a Rotary Family Health Day for about a $100,000 price point?”

Guess what?  The answer was yes and the Zone 33-34 Ghana Family Health Day project was born.  As it turns out, no one at Rotary International knows of another project that was funded (as it ultimately turned out) by 22 Districts.  Not clubs.  Districts.  Yes, different DGs in the Zone handled the fundraising in different ways, with some getting club contributions.  But most found a way to fund the project using District DDF.  The Ghana Rotary Family Health Day project benefited 40,000+ Ghanians.  The total cost of the project was $114,000.  My District’s investment in the project was $3,000 of DDF.  I hope you will take a second to watch this three and one half minute video about how this got put together.

NOTE:  The video itself was conceptualized, written, and produced, in about three hours at this year’s Zone Institute in San Destin, Fla.  The video itself is a tribute to how a big idea can come to fruition when you have motivated, talented, and passionate Rotarians involved.  We are rewriting the script to focus more on Rotary clubs and I will post the final version on RFA when its complete.  In the meantime, take a look at this.

If you happen to be looking for a great program for the month of November (Foundation Month), why not check out this award winning documentary produced by RI all about RFFHA and Family Health Days.  It’s twenty four minutes long and perfectly tells a story about a Rotarian who learned about thinking big.  (Click on About Us and then Documentary.)

Let’s try to take RI President Ravi’s advice and think bigger.  After all, there is nothing limiting the scale of the service projects we take on other than our own imagination, our skill, our ability to create partnerships, and our determination.  Since its Foundation Month, it might be a good time to remember that if you want to do a BIG project, the Rotary Foundation is standing by to help.   All you need is a great idea that falls into one of the six areas of focus, a bunch of qualified partner clubs who share your vision, a strong international partner, and someone who can write a grant.  Why not?  Let’s do this!!

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