December 10, 2007
Everything is going very well and the people have been extremely friendly. I should mention the great work done by our two leaders, Dave Groner (Michigan) and Ann Lee Hussey (Maine). They have been on over 10 of these Rotary polio immunization programs including sites in Africa and India. For these efforts each participant pays his or her own way to work in what can be dangerous environments.On Sat. the 8th we did the main immunization participating in the Bangladesh National Immunization Day where they try to immunize every child under 5 in the whole country.
They have immunization booths with a small cooler containing a few vials of vaccine all over the country, many staffed by local Rotary members. The organization is very impressive. There was a time not too long ago when one child in 20 had polio in this country. Before last year, due to this program they had several years in which the country was polio free. Last year however, polio was imported from India and a few cases were identified.I immunized children at several booths staffed by local rotary members and others.
The process is simple as one just squeezes two drops of oral vaccine in to the open mouth of the recipient. A lot of our job is to give the NID participants our support, encourage their efforts and sort of show the flag. I believe that we are the first American Rotary group to participate with the program in Bangladesh. Sunday the 9th I went house to house with a couple of young girls, Sumi and Lizu, (18 yrs old) looking for children that were missed on the NID (National Immunization Day). They are paid about $1.30 a day.
The purpose of the house to house effort is to find and immunize children that were missed on the NID. We would go to an apartment complex or slum and knock on every door to see if there was a child inside that had not been immunized and ask if there were other children in the building.After a home had been visited the girls would write the date and our team number on their door with chalk to indicate that the location had been visited. Some doors still had the chalk mark from the last visit earlier in the year. Most children at our locations had been immunized but I did another 6 in this effort. This clean up program lasts 4 days but is only done in the morning. Our base was a women’s health clinic that was also a polio immunization site. After our immunizing I talked to the director who showed me her small laboratory that does HIV tests along with a few other types of test such as pregnancy.To my very pleasant surprise they were using the Capillus rapid HIV test developed by one of my groups at Cambridge Biotech in the 90s. It was very fulfilling to see this product now made by Trinity Biotech in Ireland helping people half way around the world.
In the afternoon we drove out of Dhaka and visited a weaving plant owned by a Rotary member, a Bangladesh Rotary financed free housing project on a river and a Bangladesh Rotary financed arsenic free water system at a boy’s orphanage. This trip shows one what poverty really is. In the evening we had a dinner with the district president and other Rotary members. I went in native dress. Today, the 10th, we did house to house immunizations again, I worked with the same two girls. Each was dressed in a sari that would make you think that they were well to do.However, after our work was complete I visited Sumi’s home, an apartment, that was very small and seemed to house a number of people. We would consider it a slum.
I gave the children gifts and enjoyed some tea while we talked. By the way, most of the people are very clean but their homes and living environment is not. In the afternoon we visited a free woman’s hospital hearing a presentation and seeing some of the wards. It was minimal. They provide each mother with a plastic ware table setting and food box when they go home. The food box, enough for a few days, is provided once a month for 4 months. They hope to provide more food in the future.One must remember that this is the capital of the country and that things are worse outside the cities. I am on a dial up connection and cannot send any pictures but will do that at a later date. This is sad because the pictures really tell the story.
All the best Carl