Chandigarh: Rotary International expects India to be the first to be free of polio among the four countries where it runs a campaign and that should happen within three years, says its president Ray Klinginsmith.
"As per our estimation, India will be the first of the four countries (the campaign is active in Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India) to be declared polio-free," Klinginsmith said.
Rotary International will formally declare India a polio-free country within the next three years, he said.
About the success of the `Polio-free India` campaign, he pointed out: "There has been only a single case of polio reported in India over the last 11 months."
"In Nigeria, which has been the most highly affected country with polio so far, we have managed to bring the number down to 21 this year," said Klinginsmith who was on a short visit to this city.
Rotary International is one of the biggest service club organisations with over 1.2 million members in 33,000 clubs worldwide.
Club members are volunteers from varied fields and professions who work locally, regionally and internationally to combat hunger, improve health and sanitation, provide education and job training, promote peace, and eradicate polio under the motto `Service Above Self`.
About the role of the governments of various countries in the project, he said: "Polio eradication is the biggest project taken up by us where we worked in close association with governments."
The polio eradication project was initiated by the organisation in 1979 wherein more than 600,000 children were immunised against polio in the Philippines. The immunisations were followed in other Asian and African nations. In 1988, Unicef and WHO joined the campaign.
"We appreciate the contribution of (Microsoft co-founder) Bill Gates who had recently donated about $355 million to our organisation for the execution of the project," the he said.
The term of Klinginsmith, an attorney in Kirksville, Missouri, USA, whose term as Rotary International president ends June 30 this year.
The recent unrest in some Arab nations has led Rotary International to put its expansion plans in these countries on hold.
"Due to the political turmoil going on in most of the Arab nations, we have suspended our plans of expansion in these countries for now," Klinginsmith said.
Klinginsmith said out of all the nations affected by political unrest in recent months, Rotary International was "active only in Egypt".
Asked if Rotary International had a role in countries like Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Tunisia which have been affected by political unrest, Klinginsmith said: "Since we are not a political organisation, we have restricted our intervention."
The organisation, aiming at providing humanitarian services and developing peace among communities, has been running the polio eradication campaign globally for the last three decades.
"Over the last 30 years, the campaign saw many political instabilities and internal conflicts in some of the Asian countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Yet, we could always manage to keep the immunisations continued," he said.
He has been carrying out many other projects based on his term theme, "Build Communities. Bridge Continents."
"Under our upcoming project which begins April 8, a team of 20 medical experts and 10 volunteers will be sent to Zambia and Mallawi for providing free surgeries to the needy," he said.
A similar project was carried out by the volunteers of Rotary International this month wherein nearly 3,000 free-of-cost orthopaedic, gynaecology, eye and dental surgeries were performed on the patients in Chindwara, Madhya Pradesh.