Volunteers were clad head to toe in purple to raise awareness for Rotary’s Purple4Polio campaign, which encourages people to get involved in our efforts to completely eradicate polio from the world.
In a first of two parades over the winter season, Rotary volunteers were joined by the United Ward’s Club at the Lord Mayor’s Show on Saturday 10th November.
The group of volunteers were accompanied by Rotary Purple4Polio Ambassadors Konnie Huq and Anne Wafula Strike, who were interviewed live from the parade as part of BBC One’s coverage.
The pair shared their polio stories with the nation in interviews with BBC presenter Sonali Shah.
You can catch up on the coverage on BBC iPlayer (available until 10th December 2018), simply sign in and skip to 31:30 to see Rotary’s entry.
Former Blue Peter presenter Konnie took part in a Rotary immunisation campaign in Utter Pradesh in northern India in 2009, where she saw for herself the challenge of eradicating the disease among communities ravaged by poverty and poor hygiene.
We’re on the cusp of eradicating polio forever.”
Speaking to the BBC, she said, “I’m supporting the End Polio Now campaign because we’re on the cusp of an historic moment. Polio used to be rife, in the 1980s for instance, there were 1,000 new cases a day globally, and that’s when Rotary International established the campaign.”
“With the help of other organisations such as the World Health Organization and the UN, that number has dwindled to just 27 cases globally this year. We’re on the cusp of eradicating it forever.”
Anne also has an incredibly personal connection to polio, having contracted the disease when she was just two-and-a-half years old.
But like so many inspiring survivors of the virus, she did not let it hold her back.
Anne became the first wheelchair racer from Sub-Sahara Africa to compete at the Paralympics when she represented Kenya at the Athens Games in 2004.
“Polio devastated our lives back in Kenya,” she told the BBC. “To contract polio at a time when nobody really knew what it was, when the villagers did not actually have an explanation as to why a very able-bodied, young child would suddenly lose use of their legs, was really horrible. It was bad.”
“I think Rotarians are doing a great job to eradicate polio. I can’t thank them enough.”
The Lord Mayor’s Show is the world’s oldest and longest civic procession, where Rotary brought an eye-catching Steam Traction Engine and ‘Limonaire’ circus organ.
As well as the Lord Mayor’s Show, Rotary is also taking part in the London New Year’s Day Parade (LNYDP) to celebrate the start of 2019.
London’s New Year’s Day Parade, 'the World’s Greatest Street Spectacular', welcomes over 8000 international performers and over 600,000 spectators to the streets of the West End!#Parade #lnydp #MarchingBand #NewYearsDay @visitlondon pic.twitter.com/5liumAntND
— LNYDP (@Lnydp) April 18, 2018
Rotary members around the world have raised US$1.9 billion and given countless hours of volunteering to help immunise over 2.5 billion children globally against polio.
With cases reduced by 99.9% since Rotary pioneered the campaign more than 30 years ago, raising awareness and keeping the disease in the public eye is essential in order to make polio just the second ever human disease to be completely eradicated.
Three countries remain polio endemic; Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria and it is estimated there are 120,000 polio survivors in the UK.
Rotary volunteers who are keen to take part in the LNYDP should contact Eve Conway.
Read more about Konnie Huq’s support for End Polio Now