sábado, 24 de outubro de 2009


One day at a seminar about polio, in a gesture of great enthusiasm, I approached the screen to point out to the ones attending that the little piece of the map, white in a yellow sea, is Portugal. That is to say, in 1985, Portugal was one of the few countries in the world Poliomyelitis free, a mutilating disease, the one that had, at the time, the highest mortality rate in the world for children under the age of five.
Baltazar Leite Rebelo de Sousa was the minister of health and care during the dictatorship in Portugal in the time Marcelo Caetano was in office. He invited two very interesting individuals to collaborate with him, professors Gonçalves Ferreira, Secretary of State, and Arnaldo Sampaio, General Director, to the health area. An unusual circumstance, even for nowadays, of salutary democracy, due to the fact that, one more than the other, were placed in political quadrants almost opposite to the established political regime. Such fact honors as much who invited as the ones invited.
To this fortunate nomination it wasn’t indifferent the fact that Portugal, not only had freed itself from polio before most countries, but also has today the third best value when it comes to infant mortality rate in the world. The creation of Health Care Centers, the vaccination plans, the family planning, the attention given to child health and to pregnant women, the universality and cost-free of the system, were mutual potentiators. Like closing a cycle, I say it at the end of this chapter, is what we can see emerging today in many other places in the world. «Cem Anos de Milagres» (One hundred years of miracles) tells here, in 11 short chapters, one of the biggest victories of Mankind since the revolution of agriculture.
Undertaken by Rotary International (RI) and then supported by large worldwide institutions and governments from all over the world, the Polio Eradication Saga (poliomyelitis and infantile paralysis are other names for the disease) is about to end.
The Rotarians contributed so far with more than US$ 600 million, due to their labor, to their voluntary commitment. More than 20 million volunteers were involved in this effort, a figure impossible to achieve if egocentrism prevailed in the world as some want us to believe. The Task Force promoted by Rotary to raise funds, Advocacy Advisory for Polio Eradication, has gathered more than US$4 billion near the governments and large corporations. Until it’s over it will be necessary to appeal to the depth of the hearts of many more people.
In this superb story, how much time was logic overcome!? Angola, for example, a country devastated by 30 years of civil war, preceded by 10 more years of colonial war, seemed at first the biggest obstacle to polio eradication in the world. Speaking through the radio with the ex-president of RI Luís Vicente Giay, the rebel leader Jonas Savimbi even told him «we are the ones who take care of our children!» But Rotary and its partners won in good terms this and other resistances of no lesser weight.
With the Rotary's US$200 Million Challenge, Rotary tries to correspond to another challenge of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. These multimillionaire patrons of the foundation, friends, philanthropists, people devoted into putting an end to some of the biggest calamities of Mankind, donated this year to Rotary an equal amount with the purpose of making possible the final step of this Saga. There is less than 1% of the root of the problem to eliminate in only 4 countries, Pakistan, Afghanistan and India (in this one, the problem is only technical) and Nigeria (still lacking a greater political involvement of their leaderships).
This is the second disease to be eliminated from the planet. Smallpox, technically easier to beat, was the first. But there are three aspects of this Saga as important as the eradication of polio in itself. One of them, extremely relevant, is the example given to the world. Another resides in the use of the worldwide structure, physical and human, brought together by RI and the Polio Global Initiative, in which it is included, to defeat other diseases, such as the Ebola or Cholera, or to implement the program of the new system of vaccines. As important as the others, it is now possible to obtain from this structure embryos of universal health services in many developing countries.
But such a story has heroes and villains, steps forward and setbacks, extremely particular events, even volunteers and professionals who in many cases took their sacrifice to the highest risk, surviving death.
Two friends had a very particular mark on me due to their involvement in this story, colleague Otto Austel, from the USA, and nurse Jenny Horton, from Australia. I doubt there is anyone who can surpass them.
Seven years ago, under my initiative, the Portuguese television carried out for a long time daily spots appealing to the financial aid of this Saga, whose leading people were some of the most prominent personalities of the country, since the first-lady to the government, in art and in religion. While celebrating the World Polio Day, on the 24th October, children who enter the football field holding hands with the players, in six important games, aired on television, of the first National League, will wear the End Polio Now T-shirts, and at the same time the number of a bank account will be publicly announced which deposit will be endorsed to the Rotary Foundation (TRF), destined to the Saga. And then a big Gala dinner at the Póvoa de Varzim Casino will take place with similar aim. It’s a very beautiful initiative with the support and commitment of the District Commission of the Rotary Foundation at District 1970, conducted by Álvaro Gomes, from the inter-district Commission of the same Foundation, under the responsibility of Gonçalves Afonso (with the support of his Rotary club, Santo Tirso) and the board of the Professional Football League in Portugal, whose president is Hermínio Loureiro, former secretary of States for sports. Kindest regards.
It is the story of this immense Saga, in a draft, as paradigmatic as pungent, that I am now presenting you.
(To be continued in A)
Henrique Pinto
October 09 in World Polio Day
PHOTOS: Advocacy Advisors for Polio Eradication, Europe, Meeting in Zurich, September 2002: it is easy to recognise Anann Balachandrana, WHO Geneva (India), Henrique Pinto (Portugal), Carl-Wilhelm Stenhammar (Sweden), Júlio Sorjús (Spain), Pierre Lannoy (France), Peter Bundgaard (Denmark), Bob Scott (Canada) and Linda Muller, WHO Geneva (Canada);Herminio Loureiro, former secretary of State for sports, chairs Footbol Portuguese League, partner in Polio Fundraising in Polio

5 comentários:

  1. Qué bueno saber de ti!!!!!. Un abrazo extensivo a Graça al cual se une Myriam

  2. Muchas gracias Jose y Myriam.
    Yo puce tu contestación en mi blog, lo siento.
    Te acuerdas daqulla manana en el Banco Alimentar de Orange County?
    Tienes alguna foto? He sido maravilloso.
    Un fuerte abrazo para ustedes
    Henrique Pinto y Maria da Graça

  3. Vacuna de la malaria para el 2011

    Si todo va bien, entre 2010 y 2011 las agencias encargadas de autorizar la comercialización de los medicamentos (la FDA, en Estados Unidos, y la EMEA, en Europa) tendrán sobre la mesa la primera solicitud oficial para dar luz verde al registro de la primera vacuna de la malaria. Lo anunció ayer Pedro Alonso, director del Centro de Investigación en Salud Internacional de Barcelona (CRESIB) y del Centro de Investigación de Manhiça, en Mozambique, que lidera los ensayos de la vacuna ya en fase III con 16.000 niños de siete países.
    En El País.com

  4. Dear Henrique,
    (...) I wish to congratulate you and your fellow Rotarians in Portugal for everything you are doing to maintain the focus on polio eradication. So much of what we do relies on keeping Rotarians and the public aware that polio eradication is still an issue. Between your new website (which is incredibly comprehensive!) and the awareness activities you arranged for World Polio Day, I'm confident that, at least in Portugal, people are aware of the need for us to finish the job of polio eradication.

    I am not surprised ot hear that you know the newly-elected Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs. I suspsect that if I ever had the chance to visit you in Portugal, we would walk down the street and everyone would know you. You are just that kind of person. I know that the economic times are difficult, but I wonder if you think there is any possibility to seek support for Angola, where polio has stubbornly persisted and has become re-established. I am attaching a fact sheet about their situation and their funding needs. Anything you might be able to do to encourage support - financial or political - would be much appreciated. On the political side, there is a rapidly approaching opportunity that we are hoping to use to benefit polio eradication. In January, Angola will host the Africa Cup of Nations - a major soccer tournament for the continent of Africa. Players and spectators from around the continent will travel to Angola to participate. We are hoping to encourage the President to highlight the need to "Kick Polio out of Africa" at the tournament. As you might imagine, many of the visiting teams are from polio-affected countries.
    I welcome your thoughts on this idea and am happy to help as you see fit. Perhaps your contact, the Chair of the National Football League, would also have some ideas about this tournament and perhaps some contacts??

    Henrique, please accept my apology again for my clumsiness with my email. You have been so steadfast over these many years working on polio eradication, and I greatly appreciate the work you are doing.

    With sincere appreciation and best regards,

  5. Dear Henrique, please rest assured that Kris is still working for Rotary. And I am sure you will hear from her some time soon. It is good to know that there is a new government in Portugal. Do you think it is time to approach then for support? As you can imagine, many governments are experiencing the same financial challenges of yours and therefore our advocacy work must be concentrated on those governments that have the capacity to continue to make significant contributions.

    I applaud all of your efforts on behalf of PolioPlus. We would very much appreciate receiving any photos from the football match which we can include in a compilation of all the different activities that Rotarians sponsored on World Polio Day.

    Again, thank you for your tremendous efforts on behalf of the children of the world.