Thursday, June 05, 2014

Why does polio still exist? What's Pakistan's problem?

Vaccinators working with Rotary Intl. on polio eradication
Yes, there has been a vaccine that completely protects against polio since 1959, but there are still parts of the world where polio paralyzes children every damn day. The polio virus has been eliminated all over the world, but it has never been stopped in Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Because of this, polio cases also appear in neighboring countries where the polio virus get re-introduced from these three.

Since 2011, cases have steadily dropped in Afghanistan. Since 2012 cases have steadily dropped in Nigeria. But cases are currently climbing in Pakistan. Rotary International created the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) in 1988 with the World Health Organization, UNICEF and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The GPEI's efforts have reduced cases everywhere, but Pakistan is kind of the problem child.

Why? What's Pakistan's problem? Well, it didn't help that the U.S. used an immunization drive as a cover to ferret out Osama bin Laden in 2011. As necessary as it might have been to assassinate bin Laden, that was a terrible way to do it. It ruined a lot of trust, and since then parents have increased their refusals to give their children the oral polio vaccine. The belief that the polio vaccine is part of a plot against the Pakistani people is a big factor in why we can't get polio cases down in Pakistan.

Outright violence against polio immunization workers has also been on the rise. In Afghanistan, where polio immunization goes more smoothly, the Taliban supports the GPEI's effort. But in Pakistan a very different Taliban murders health workers who work on immunizing children.

Why am I telling you? Because until polio is completely eradicated from the planet, it can be reintroduced into any country at any time. What can you do?

1. Find out more about the dire situation in Pakistan by watching ABC News Australia's 27-minute film The Polio Emergency.

2. Donate to the GPEI's efforts HERE.

3. Donate to the Bob Keegan Polio Eradication Heroes Fund that recognizes health workers and volunteers who have incurred serious injury or lost their lives as a direct consequence of their participation in polio eradication activities HERE.

4. Find out other actions you can take HERE.

Polio eradication is absolutely in sight, but we have to keep up the pushback against the fear and violence that plague specific areas where the polio virus thrives.

Any questions?

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