Sir Emeka Offor; A Worthy Soldier In The Fight Against Polio

Charity is injurious unless it helps the recipient to become independent of it. - John D. Rockefeller Jr.

Today, the African region is being declared free of wild polio virus after Nigeria, the only polio endemic nation in the region has been free of it for 3 years. This moment’s success should not be taken for granted because in 2000 alone, Nigeria reported 637 cases of wild polio virus. Since then, there has been a consistent drop in cases occasioned by concerted efforts from different stakeholders. Globally, cases of wild polio virus fell by 99% from 350,000 cases in 1988 to 33 cases in 2018. The number of endemic countries also fell from 125 countries in 1988 down to just 2 today. The road to polio free African region was rough, bumpy and sometimes fatal. At a point in the fight against the scourge, there was vaccine rejection in some parts of the country as a result of misinformation. Molestation of health workers and insurgency were part of difficulties we overcame.

The declaration of African region wild polio virus free was made possible by concerted efforts from different governments, NGOs, health workers and cooperating parents. Notable among the NGOs that made this possible is Sir Emeka Offor Foundation. Sir (Dr) Emeka Offor is very instrumental in the eradication of wild Polio virus from African region and hopefully Pakistan and Afghanistan who are the remaining endemic nations will benefit from African experience. The African success story on polio cannot be complete without mentioning how Sir Emeka Offor used his foundation to show his commitment to the cause in varying forms all through to this day. The source of his determination, devotion and zeal in the fight against polio was revealed by him in an exclusive chat with reporters on Saturday, the 1st day of March 2014 at Sir Emeka Offor Foundation headquarters in Oraifite. Sir Emeka Offor, the chairman of Chrome group answered the question on many minds which was what drives his passion and resolve to seeing that polio is irreversibly eradicated since he was never a victim or anyone close to him. In a reminiscential mood he narrated his experience in the north where he was born and how some of his childhood friends were hampered by wild Polio virus. That experience shaped the mindset he brought with him in the course of ending Polio in Africa. In his words, “I have been willing to bring joy and relief to polio survivors and to bring whatever I can in making sure Polio is defeated in Africa and the world at large. I witnessed from my childhood in the northern part of the country where I was born, polio’s capacity to ruin lives. That is why I want to make sure that this particular disease is eradicated so that children will be free from it not only in our country but the world at large.’’ The debilitating power of polio he witnessed in other children while growing up calcified his resolve to help Polio survivors become self-reliant. As time passed, he found out that Polio can be prevented through vaccination which availed him the opportunity to help finance its eradication.

His quest to see polio eradicated globally brought Rotary International to his attention and he became a member of the organization. As a Rotarian, he has used Rotary International platform to donate over $2.3 million dollars making him African highest donor and his contribution prompted Rotary to appoint him Rotary International Ambassador to Nigeria. As Rotary International Polio Ambassador to Nigeria, his activities in the fight against Polio did not stop at donations but extended to his participation in every round of immunization, advocacy, celebrity endorsements for awareness and logistics for health workers. The Sir Emeka Offor Rotary hall under construction in Abuja is going on at no cost to Rotary as the foundation has taken to bear the full cost of the project. His foundation has also given out thousands of mobility aide to Polio survivors across the country and continues to support any activity or project aimed at making polio survivors become economically self-reliant. His donations and other efforts put into the fight against the scourge impelled President Muhammadu Buhari to write him a letter of thanks for his contributions. Sir Emeka Offor believes that as African region is declared free of wild polio virus, we should not let our guard down as all activities in the fight against polio like immunization, advocacy, sensitization and all logistical planning should continue in other to make sure there is no resurgence anywhere on the continent again.

Sir Emeka Offor Foundation which was founded in 1994 and incorporated in 2006 has a tripod focus on Health, Education and Empowerment and the foundation has massively done well in all these areas. Over $30 million worth of books have been distributed to primary, secondary and tertiary institutions in 19 African countries including Nigeria through the education program of the foundation. The foundation has empowered thousands of widows and giving out scholarships to brilliant students while those not educationally inclined have been fixed through skill acquisition program. The foundation equally intervened during this Covid-19 pandemic with the distribution of fourteen 40 feet containers of various hospital equipment including PPE and face masks to 14 different tertiary health institutions across the country.

Congratulations to Sir (Dr) Emeka Offor and his foundation, health workers, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Rotary International, the government and all other stakeholders in this historic win over polio in our continent. In the words of Sir Emeka Offor, ‘until the world becomes polio free, no child anywhere can truly be free of polio virus.’ The two remaining polio endemic countries need the support of the rest of the world to finally archive poliomyelitis where the likes of smallpox and rinderpest are in history.

Obi Ebuka Onochie

Photo Credit: Alex Aghomi

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