Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Ut Aliqui Vivant

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WHO, Polio and the UN

Browsing through the BBC News website, I ran across an article discussing the current status of the World Health Organization campaign against polio.

We are on the verge of eliminating another disease.

Polio may seem like a distant memory, but it its last big outbreak in this country, the number of cases per year rose from twenty thousand in 1945 to fifty eight thousand by 1952, before dropping to thirty five thousand cases reported in 1953. By 1956 only five thousand six hundred cases were reported. The Salk vaccine had been found and the March of Dimes had successfully promoted a mass immunization campaign.

Fifty years later, the human race has eliminated the virus around the world. Small pockets exist in Africa, and the WHO hopes that by the end of 2004 or early 2005, even those will be eliminated. It is a stirring story on its own; open wars between nations halted for days while international relief workers vaccinated both sides and the civilians nearby. Entire economies shut down so that everyone in a country can get vaccinated in a 2-3 day span. This is humanity at its best.

This is also the promise of the United Nations. Disease is the great leveler. Wealth can buy more and more medicine, but in the end a virus does not care if you are rich or poor. Only a unified campaign that lifts up all of humanity protects any of it. There are other such threats; global warming, freshwater contamination, WMD proliferation. Perhaps someday these problems will also unite our species.

A good point was raised this past Sunday in a discussion group cum book club to which I belong; the EU exists because its component nations are willing to surrender sovereignty to the whole largely because they perceive comparative advantage versus those outside the group. The UN has no such luxury; there is no one to "beat" by empowering the UN. This one news story crystallizes the argument for it. Some challenges affect us all, and cannot be addressed, conquered or prevented without everyone's cooperation.


At 6:12 PM, [REDACTED] said...

I'm sorry, this seemed like such a positive post, but I really can not resist.

This isn't the first or only artical on the problems with getting people to agree with the polio vaccine, just the one published today. If you look at bbc news and the africa section or archives you will note that it doesnt seem very likely to move past the mass disinformation campaign against the vaccine any time soon.

just giving the obligatory gw post about africa....

At 4:22 PM, [REDACTED] said...

Actually this whole not wanting vaccines thing is actually a disturbing trend of what often amounts to culture clash. For example, a lot of programs have tried to push for condom use in Africa and have met local resistance because using condoms isn't culturally okay to do. It's probably a combination of not having good information but a lot of it's also this cultural clash that is leading to the rejection of potentially life-saving practices.

At 6:48 PM, [REDACTED] said...

It's not just that it is culturaly unacceptable to do. People are told that vaccination efforts and the use of condoms are a government/western campaign to infect the population with AIDS


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