Sir Emeka Offor
Sir Emeka Offor

A loud cry came through the door leading to the back gardenof the cooking area in the compound and Mrs. Okeke came running in to her son thinking of the worse. As she looked at her son while panting like a sprinter, she didn?t know whether to express her anger on her son or just walk away as it appears to her, a false alarm. She settled for the latter and as she made for the door, it came again, same wailing cry from her two and half years old son. As she turned in anger, then she saw through the struggle of her son that it was indeed not a false alarm.

Sir Emeka Offor
Sir Emeka Offor

Little Innocent was clutching very hard on the bedspread trying to stand on his feet as he usually did but his legs appeared to be failing him. His mother was alarmed and that was how little Innocent?s life with polio began over two decades ago. Innocent was one of the numerous polio survivors at Barn Hill Resort Awka where Sir Emeka Offor Foundation (SEOF) distributed tricycle wheelchairs and crutches to them. The foundation has been at the forefront of polio eradication, helping the less privileged, empowering the youths for self-sustainability and general community development.?I have never owned a wheelchair or a good crutches all my life and that made growing up for me very difficult? said Innocent in Igbo language.

Like Innocent, many polio survivors find it arduous andbackbreaking living in a country where their stake is not put into consideration when erecting buildings, public arenas or in the area of mobility aid provision. Nigeria has never counted the economic loss it registers in the failure of training and educating their physically challenged population especially polio survivors who given the same opportunity can contribute economically if not better than physically fit individuals.There are great polio survivors who have left their mark indelibly in the sand of time.Need we be reminded that World War II was won from a wheelchair by former President of America F. D Roosevelt? We can?t forget the great billionaire from Australia, Kerry Packer who employed many as he multiplied his wealth from a wheelchair. Paul Martin was the twenty-first Prime Minister of Canada and a polio survivor who mobilized for mass vaccination that led to eradication of this crippling disease in Canada and so many other polio survivors who have stunned the world with their monolithic contributions to the world.

Innocent responding to the newsmen question on how he went through Primary and secondary schools, painted a picture of a forgotten soul in the midst of abundant help. According to him, he was initially being taken to and back from school by his parents on a wonky old bicycleand it continued until he was able to use crutches put together for him by a road side carpenter. There were so many like Innocent at the event who had never owned a good mobility aid putting them to a life of strenuous struggle. The ostentatious benevolence of Sir Emeka Offor Foundation (SEOF) by distributing 500 wheelchairs and 100 crutches to polio survivors has left an imprint in not only fighting polio but helping the survivors live a stress free life. At the event where over four hundred polio survivors of different sizes, ages and with different deformities were present, the air was filled with great expectations. Their faces beamed with joy after the distribution of the wheelchairs and crutches in addition to the three thousand naira transport fare given to each as they departed home.

Taking the case of Innocent as a cue to seeing through the vailed sufferings of the ?Differently Able people? as SEOF like to refer to polio survivors, we can easily punctuate the level of negligence and aloofness in our country especially toward physically challenged amongst us.One of the drags that inhibits our willingness to give in this nation is the individual survivalist instinct which in most cases results from determinism influenced by the environment.With over $3.3 million contribution toward global polio eradication, reduction of polio infection cases to just 6 from 53 last year and integrative assistance in the areasof logistics and security provision for health workers, Sir Emeka Offor Foundation?s commitment to wiping out polio is not in doubt.

Recently, Nigeria was declared Ebola free by World Health Organization (WHO), a feat achieved by collective interest, concerted efforts and total resolve of both our government and the people to stamp out the lethal disease from our bounds. Applying the same zeal and resolve that was geared towards fighting the Ebolavirus to the fight against polio, Nigeria will move into post-polio era by December this year which is actually the month Nigeria?s match into polio free status will start counting. The most pressing task facing SEOF, Rotarians, the Nigerian government and all stake holders in the fight against polio is reaching the unreached in the remotest corners of this country regardless of insecurity and ignorance. If India, a country seven times the population of Nigeria and three times our territorial size can be polio free today, indeed nothing should be a hindrance to Nigeria achieving same. Innocent and the other polio survivors were not only full of joy by the good gesture from SEOF but expressed how anticipatory they are to seeing Nigeria become polio free.

Sensitization campaign should be redoubled as we are at the twilight of polio transmission in Nigeria. With the status of biggest economy in Africa, most populous black nation on earth and the first nation to defeat Ebola, but still listed as one of three countries where Polio is endemic does not match that status. Some of us may live in parts of Nigeria where polio have not been recorded in the last ten years but the truth still remains that one case in any part of the country still put the rest at risk. We should take the slogan of ?two drops, every child, every time? to the streets. To buttress the need for every hand to be on deck, I borrow a quote from the founder of SEOF, Sir Emeka Offor, ?until the last case of Polio is eradicated, every child in the world is still at risk?.
Obi Ebuka Onochie can be reached via [email protected]
Abuja.

Source: Obi Ebuka

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