JUST months after embarking on a mercy mission in Africa, a Huddersfield couple have embarked on another long-distance relief effort.
This time John and Chris Philip have flown thousands of miles to India in their bid to wipe out polio.
The retired doctor and his wife recently spent weeks in Tanzania helping refurbish a 160-bed hospital on the island of Ukerewe.
The Fixby couple have now jetted off again, this time to lead a 34-strong team who have travelled to Lucknow, in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
They are immunising children as part of Rotary International’s campaign to eradicate polio from the world.
John, a retired breast cancer specialist and wife Chris, a retired teacher, were also joined by Fixby mother and daughter Susan and Sarah Charlesworth.
The pair were so moved by the stories of the deprived children in one of the poorest areas of India that they decided to forego their holidays and join the team.
The killer disease polio has been eradicated from the world except four countries – India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.
John said: “Until the last case is wiped off the world and we have three years without a single case anywhere in the world, our children are at risk – polio is only a plane ride away.
“Our children’s routine immunisation gives them low immunity, but it is not adequate if there are live cases here.”
In India children under five receive polio drops up to 10 times a year to help build up their immunity.
John’s group have been visiting schools to raise awareness of the risk of the highly infectious disease, which can invade the nervous system and cause paralysis.
This Sunday they will help immunise one million children against polio as part of National Immunisation Day.
The target for the day is to immunise 157m children all over India.
Rotary International pledged in 1985 to eradicate polio when it was endemic in 125 countries and it has now been reduced to four.
Two billion children have now been protected from the virus through national immunisation programmes.
John said India is at the forefront of a well-organised polio campaign.
He said: An army of volunteers, including Rotarians and health staff, participate in this massive undertaking.
“It’s a real community effort requiring a huge publicity campaign beforehand.
“We live in a global village. What is India’s problem today could become our problem tomorrow.
“We must pledge our support to the dedication and commitment of the people involved in eradicating polio.”