Oscar Nominated Films Raise Polio Awareness

Astute Oscar-watchers are getting a short course in polio eradication this year, thanks to two nominated films that together show the status of this paralyzing disease in India and Pakistan, two of the four countries where the virus has not been stopped.

The Final Inch, nominated for an Academy Award in the best documentary short subject category, chronicles the challenges health organizations and governments face during the final stages of polio eradication. The film follows health workers as they immunize Indian and Pakistani children, explaining how they overcome cultural misunderstandings that make some parents wary of the oral polio vaccine. Several scenes show Rotary club volunteers administering vaccine to children in Uttar Pradesh, India.

And while not addressing polio directly, best picture nominee Slumdog Millionaire graphically depicts the conditions that allow the poliovirus to circulate in India’s slums, including poor sanitation, contaminated water, and overcrowding.

“The Final Inch shows us why it’s critical to win the hearts and minds of the parents whose children are at risk,” says Jonathan Majiyagbe, chair of the Rotary Foundation, which oversees Rotary’s polio eradication program. “And if you view Slumdog Millionaire with polio in mind, you will see how easily the virus can spread from child to child in an environment of extreme poverty. Taken together, these two films show us some of the cultural and physical barriers we must overcome in order to achieve a polio-free world.”

Polio eradication has been Rotary’s top priority for more than 20 years. The international humanitarian service organization is a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, along with the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF.

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