Rotarians’ mercy mission to India

Sylvia Donaldson, Irene Constable and Alan Constable
Sylvia Donaldson, Irene Constable and Alan Constable

ROTARIANS from St Andrews are among a delegation from across the United Kingdom and Europe preparing to visit India later this month to participate in the country’s national polio immunisation campaign.

Two past presidents of the St Andrews club, Sylvia Donaldson and Alan Constable, along with his wife, Irene, are gearing up to travel to Delhi where they will spend three days working with teams from the World Health Organisation and local representatives immunising children against polio which is still endemic in some regions of the country.

Mr Constable told the Citizen: ‘‘The mercy mission will include administering the vaccine orally and journeying into the back streets to identify children who have not presented themselves at the licensed immunisation booths.’’

The trio from St Andrews will be joining around 40 other members of the Rotary movement involved in scouring the back streets of Delhi and the town of Karnal, 100 miles north of the city, to track down the youngsters.


Fergus Walsh, the BBC health correspondent, is travelling with the group and will screen the immunisation efforts on the morning Breakfast Show on February 20, with follow-up reports on the six and 10 o’clock news programmes.

Since 1985, Rotary has been working with the WHO to help eradicate polio and to this end has raised more than £1 billion pounds.

By 2002, Europe became polio free and by 2008 there were only four remaining polio endemic countries - India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

In a renewed effort to finally eradicate the crippling disease, Rotary is campaigning to raise a further £200 million, which will be matched by the Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation.

Mr Constable added: ‘‘The sum of only £1 helps to vaccinate five children against polio and, over the past two years, St Andrews Rotarians have raised over £10,000 towards the global campaign after organising numerous fund raising events, including challenging local primary and secondary schools to assist.

”The national immunisation days in India are designed to help publicise the campaign and the involvement of Rotary on these days has helped to take the message to the poorer communities in the country.”