The British Polio Fellowship has this week praised David Beckham’s efforts to combat Polio around the world. The former England captain has been important in tackling Polio in East Africa, with funding from a series of football matches he arranged being used to help vaccinate children in the Ali Addeh refugee camp in the south of Djibouti. The national charity welcomes the high profile the Beckham name can bring to Polio and the fight to raise awareness of Post Polio Syndrome (PPS) which affects 120,000 people in the UK.
“It’s great to see a figure with the profile and popularity of David Beckham helping to continue the eradication of Polio on a worldwide basis,” said Chief Executive of The British Polio Fellowship Ted Hill, MBE. “Polio is a preventable disease and tackling it on a practical level can only be a good thing. We know from bitter experience that here in the UK Polio can ultimately lead to PPS and the experiences and advice of our members will prove invaluable to the survivors of Polio in Africa in the long term.”
PPS is a neurological condition which can occur in up to 80% of those who have had Polio. There is no specific cure for PPS, but properly managed it may stabilise or only progress slowly and increase the quality of life of those affected. PPS affects roughly the same amount of people as Parkinson’s disease but benefits from only a fraction of the public awareness, something The British Polio Fellowship is working to change.
In a new BBC documentary, For the Love of the Game, Beckham plays a game of football on each continent to raise funds for a number of causes, led by his charitable foundation 7 Fund. During his trip to Djibouti, Beckham met children who had been displaced from their homes in surrounding countries, many of whom are at risk of diseases like Polio. The British Polio Fellowship hopes to see countries in East Africa follow their West African counterparts, such as Nigeria, which has now completely eradicated the disease.
“It’s not the first time Beckham has been involved in the fight against Polio,” added Ted. “Last year the former Manchester United star vaccinated four children against Polio in the Philippine city of Tacloban. He has been known for his humanitarian work since quitting the game in 2013 and it seems the fight against Polio is an issue particularly close to his heart. This has not gone unnoticed by The British Polio Fellowship and it is something we wish him every success with and hope in turn that raising the profile of Polio will remind people of its unwelcome legacy here in the UK in the form of PPS.”