Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hand-cyclist campaigns to eradicate polio

Hand-cyclist campaigns to eradicate polio

The Guardian
Ramesh Ferris is greeted by Lt.-Gov. Barbara Hagerman as he makes a stop at Fanningbank. Ferris is a polio survivor and is hand-cycling across the country to remind Canadians that the fight to end polio is not over. Polio is slated to become only the second disease eradicated in human history. Guardian photo

Ramesh Ferris was just six months old when he contracted polio in India.
Had he stayed in India, his future, without the use of his legs, would have been bleak.
But his mother, knowing she was not in a position to secure the kind of rehabilitative supports he needed for a healthy life, placed him in the care of a Canadian-founded orphanage, Families for Children, and put him up for adoption. She hoped he would find the care he needed with someone else.
Ron Ferris, the Anglican Bishop of the Yukon and his wife Jan adopted Ramesh and brought him to Canada. With the support of his new family, several surgeries and mobility aids he learned to walk with crutches for the first time at age four.
His experience with polio and the experience of seeing the impact polio still has on so many people in the country of his birth during a 2002 visit made him want to reach out and help.
In India he saw many polio survivors crawl on the ground because they were unable to stand or walk.
That experience ultimately led to Ferris undertaking Cycle To Walk, a campaign to raise money and awareness about the need to eradicate polio.
Since launching this campaign he has hand-cycled over 6,500 km.
Ferris is on P.E.I. where he continues to spread his polio eradication message.
Speaking Monday to the Charlottetown Rotary Club, Ferris made his case for a concerted worldwide effort to eliminate this disease. A Rotarian himself, Ferris spoke of the huge commitment Rotary International has made to eradicating polio but said there is still more to do.
“The fight to end polio isn’t over,” Ferris said. “Smallpox was eradicated in 1979, and polio could be next. We have all the tools we need to finish this job.”
He noted polio levels are down 99 per cent.
“But we need to give it one final push.”
And that push isn’t focused exclusively on India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, the four countries where polio is still endemic.
Canada is also part of the problem. Ferris is concerned about Canada because 11 per cent of Canadians are not vaccinated against polio.
He noted the disease returned to Australia in 2007 for the first time in decades.
There is no cure, but the disease can be prevented through vaccination and Ferris wants everyone to be vaccinated.
The fight to eradicate polio — led by Rotary International and the World Health Organization — is the largest public health initiative in world history but annual funding shortfalls are preventing complete success.
Through Cycle to Walk Ferris hopes to raise $1 million before reaching Cape Spear, N.L., this October.

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