$50 Million to Eradicate Polio

Success has many parents, but having moved a private members' motion in parliament a few months ago asking for CHOGM to focus on polio, I'm chuffed to see the PM today announcing $50 million to eradicate the disease in the four countries where it remains endemic: Afghanistan, Nigeria, India and Pakistan.

Getting rid of the final few cases will take ingenuity. In a speech earlier this year, I quoted former Economist journalist Robert Guest, writing in 2004:
‘Somalia has no government, unless you count a “transitional” one that controls a few streets in the capital, Mogadishu, and a short stretch of coastline. The rest of the country is divided into warring fiefdoms. Warlords extract protection money from anyone who has money to extract. Clans, sub-clans, and sub-sub-clans pursue bloody vendettas against each other, often fighting over grudges that pre-date the colonial period. Few children learn to read, but practically all self-respecting young men carry submachine-guns.

‘I was at one of the country’s countless road blocks, on a sandy road outside Baidoa, a southern town of shell-blasted stone walls and sandy streets. The local warlord’s men were waving their Kalishnikovs at approaching trucks, forcing them to stop. Many of the trucks carried passengers perched atop the cargoes of logs or oil drums. The men with guns then ordered all the children under five to dismount and herded them into the shade of a nearby tree. There, they handed them over to strangers with clipboards, who squeezed open their mouths and fed each one a single drop of polio vaccine.’

Robert Guest is describing vaccination work carried out by the World Health Organisation, which decided that working with local warlords to distribute polio vaccine was the lesser of two evils.

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