The Food and Agriculture Organization is confident that a cattle plague that ruined the lives and livelihoods of millions of people across centuries has been eliminated from the face of the earth. Auf wiedersehen Rinderpest!
It looks like I am at ground zero of a polio outbreak. In Tajikistan, where I live, 171 cases of acute flaccid paralysis have been reported by the Ministry of Health since January. (Acute flaccid paralysis is what they call it before the tests confirm it’s polio.) 32 cases have been confirmed as polio. Twelve people have died.
I was pleased to see Alanna Shaikh comment on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s generous gift, and critical commitment to help us move closer to global polio eradication. Ms. Shaikh noted in her commentary, there are Muslim populations which have been reluctant to take advantage of the polio vaccine, due to false rumors that it may lead to infertility or the spread of HIV. It is these misconceptions which make the efforts of Saudi Arabia to dispel myths and require vaccination for every Haj Pilgrim momentous.
We wrote about this last week, and The New York Times reported yesterday that Saudi Arabia is going to ask every haj pilgrim to Mecca to take the oral polio vaccine in front of Saudi health officials. This is excellent public health news, but it also illustrates the ways that health and human rights come together in strange ways.
At the Clinton Global Initiative, The United Nations Foundation (which supports this blog) and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced a $30 million program to eradicate polio.
As it stands, polio is close to being wiped off the map. There were only some 1650 cases reported in 2008. About 90% of those cases originated from countries where polio remains endemic: India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The money will largely directed to polio eradication campaigns in those four countries.