Leading the Final Push to Polio Eradication

Sophia Shea and Sophia Winchester have shared their thoughts about what  may hopefully be the final stages of the polio eradication effort. Their original blog appears on the website for Social and Behavioral Foundations of Primary Health care.

Polio eradication has been on the world’s agenda for decades, and we are finally at the last push to eradicating the disease.  However, Afghanistan and Pakistan remain on the frontlines of battling polio with added political tensions and suspicion against vaccination efforts.

Image result for polio vaccination afghanistan
Child getting vaccinated from a polio mass vaccination campaign worker. Source

Both Afghanistan and Pakistan have experienced political strife surrounding the involvement of the Taliban.  While the Taliban supports polio eradication, they continue to battle with the WHO on how best to vaccinate the respective populations. In the past, Osama bin Landen was captured using spies in a door-to-door vaccine effort, which contributed to distrust among the community. The Taliban is strongly against door-to-door vaccination given this distrust; however, the WHO considers door-to-door to be bet practice and most effective.

There are religious leaders who also say that vaccination goes against Muslim law. Due to the increased religious pressure against vaccination, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) has released religious fatwas in support of vaccination and hopefully will promote vaccination in mosques.

Despite issues in governance between the Afghanistan/Pakistan governments and the Taliban, organizations involved in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, such as UNICEFRotary International, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have been actively campaigning for mass vaccination efforts.  In order to adequately support this initiative, it is critical that there be clear leadership and fully supported funding streams to direct this final push for eradication.  Strict leadership by a governmentally neutral organization like the WHO will allow actors involved in this initiative to focus on their respective operations.  Finally, polio eradication is estimated to cost nearly $4 billion over the next few years, and the financial requirements of this effort should not create a barrier to achieving the overall goal of eradicating polio.

Call to Action:

We are very close to eradicating polio from the world – Pakistan and Afghanistan two of the last few countries to have polio. Turmoil among the governments and the Taliban’s presence make it challenging to vaccinate children in these areas. In order to succeed in eradicating polio, we need to increase funding available for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and its member organizations to increase their vaccination capacity. Your donation can make a difference. The end is near! We need to make sure there is not donor fatigue and that current efforts are supported.

Young boys and girls raise their hands to show marks of vaccination against polio, in Afghanistan
Children showing their stamped fingers indicating they have been vaccinated. Source

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