Letter from Peter Wells

For the attention of ALL Rotarians in District 1100 From Peter Wells, DRFC, EPNC

Dear Fellow Rotarians,

Most if not all of you will have seen that the government have determined that they must cut the Foreign Aid budget from 0.7 percent to 0.5 percent of GDP.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office with its Minister, Wendy Morton, has informed ‘partners’ of the scale of the cuts. Support for research into tropical diseases has been cut entirely, aid for Africa has been reduced from £2.4 billion pounds to £750 million (a 66% cut), support for maternal and reproductive health for women and girls overseas has been cut by 90% and the support for the eradication of polio by 95% from £100 million to £5 million pounds.

Rotary’s Seven Areas of Focus are:

Promoting Peace and conflict resolution; Water and sanitation; Disease prevention and treatment; Maternal and child health; Basic education and literacy; Economic and community development; and coming soon Protecting the environment

Clearly, the cuts to the Maternal and Child Health and Disease Prevention and Treatment (End Polio Now) are in direct contradiction to our intentions as Rotarians to do good in the world. The tragic cuts will blight the lives of women and girls living in the poorest countries of the world.

As to the cuts to the effort to eradicate polio it is hard to measure the negative impact on the lives of children across the southern world (not just Pakistan and Afghanistan).  India alone has 167 million children.

In England (according to NHS Digital Online Data) we vaccinate children aged one, two and five plus again once in secondary school age.  Each child has four vaccinations in their childhood.  Each vaccination* costs £7.80 for the vaccine alone, the cost for the infrastructure to deliver these vaccines is unaccounted.  In each of those age groups there are around 700,000 children.

Simple maths would suggest we spend in the order of £2.6 million pounds each year on vaccines alone to contain Polio* in England and this is replicated in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

We are spending in the UK each year more than half of the proposed allocation to the whole of the southern world.

Is the Government aware of the consequences of its actions?  Last October the Minister, Wendy Morton (Under Secretary of State at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) met with three ‘polio survivors’ which included me, along with Judith Diment. This was at her request to ‘hear’ from such people about the impact of polio on themselves and the justification for supporting efforts to eradicate polio as shown in the actions and leadership of Rotary.

The Minister is described as ‘an active Rotarian’ by the West Midlands Conservatives and certainly in our 30 minute conversation she clearly understood about Rotary and where we stood as polio ‘survivors’, sadly, that has not dissuaded her colleagues from the actions about to be taken by HMG in the month of the G7 Summit that the UK are hosting.  The UK is the only government to cut its aid budget this year.

As many of you who have listened to me over the past ten years that I have been District 1100’s End Polio Now Champion (Rotary’s title not mine!) I contracted polio as a child in 1955, no vaccines were available in the UK, that was true across the entire world.  Today, thankfully, that is no longer true and we have only two countries where Polio is still to be found wild in the community but we still have to vaccinate our own children and we still have to vaccinate children across the entire world from the richest to the poorest of countries if Polio is to remain controlled and finally eradicated.

I am asking each and every Rotarian to write to their MP, to talk about the proposed cuts and their impact in the newly opened parks, pubs and restaurants, to talk to your neighbours and the local press and if you are into Social Media do not be silent!  (Please copy me in to your emails etc. and any responses you receive!)

I totally admit to being biased in the matter of Polio, I am not neutral and I would not wish any child today to have my experience, yes I am a survivor but not without lifelong cost.

Finally, do not forget the impact of these cuts upon the lives and health of, in particular, girls and women.

Thank you for reading this missive, please take action to highlight the issues, Rotary has, through our District Governor, Chris Firth, a measured statement, and a template of a communication to MPs and others.  My words and thoughts may help add some colour and individuality.

Best wishes to one and all

Peter Wells
07970 850399
(*NHS data: REVAXIS triple vaccine includes Diphtheria and Tetanus)