So, why polio?

So, why Polio? I’m not sure if this is the most asked question of me or the question I ask myself the most.

I have no personal connection to polio. I’m not an epidemiologist. Polio was eradicated in my home country (Australia) 6 years before I was born. I am far more passionate about education, gender equality, the empowerment of women and maternal health than I am about polio.

So, why polio?

Again I asked myself this question when I wrote the blog about irregular bowel syndrome blog and I though if dirty water is the primary carrier for polio infections who don’t we just go to the source and make sure we have clean water for all. I think we should and it would be far better but having worked on polio advocacy for a year dedicating almost 70 hours a week to it most weeks (writing these blogs count!) I convinced myself polio is more important or an important bridge needed to get to clean water for all…

So, why polio?

I think the effects of polio eradication have become more real since being in Pakistan. I have lived in developing countries enough to know that generally vaccinations are a good thing having learnt a lot more about epidemiology this year but having come back to a developing country for the first time through the polio lens it has made a difference.

So, why polio?

I wish I could say I do my work to save children’s lives, but for me it is not the drive for me to do what I do. Equality. Access. Opportunity. JUSTICE – these are my motivations and saving kids is a wonderful bi-product and so what rules my brain is how do I best go about achieving those simple words, with and for all.

So, why polio?

The fact that polio was eradicated in my home country 6 years before my birth is a global embarrassment and to stand in front of Pakistani audiences and say this to people who still face the disease makes me so embarrassed, pissed off, dedicated and resolved to do more.

So, why polio?

Think of the chicken and egg story and that being clean water for all or polio vaccination for all. If we do the first the second will almost certainly follow. But since being in Pakistan and reflecting back on African, South American and other experiences the first (clean water for all) is a significantly bigger effort in resources, costs and practicality. I still believe it will happen (water) but for me it is not the smart or practical starting point. I think it’s like the old saying: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Not sure if that is a saying, but to tackle big issues we need the stepping stones to get there.

So, why polio?

In order for all to have access to clean water and similar larger issues, I believe it takes polio eradication to get there. Basically polio and the two drops of vaccine needed for each child is a good starting point for many of these topics and issues. I think once we paved the way with two drops for every last child we can then open the floodgates of clean water, infrastructure, etc that is really needed for these hardest to reach places, communities and people

So, why polio?

As much as I would love to leap to health and education for every child, in some places hearts and minds, access and costs are not ready for this so I see the systems of polio eradication as the pioneer to set the stage and platform for so much more.

So, why polio?

With the lowest recorded polio cases this year (193 so far in 2012 compared with 536 this time last year – a record breaking year till this year!) and a shortfall in funding ($700m) means there are no guarantees or certainties in eradication and it would be a crime on humanity and past efforts to not rid the world of this disease.

So, why polio?

Eradicating is only one part of the story – other parts of the story are:

  • The legacy it leaves behind to those on the ground, donors and advocates
  • The infrastructure it forms that usually isn’t there before
  • We get local leaders and governments committing to something for its people – easier then trying to get a government to commit to no corruption off the bat or big tangible outcomes – we will but polio is the mentality and framework to build from
  • The above point is also true for donor countries and their tax payers!
  • Vaccinators are delivering more than two drops – it is support, listening, learning, systems, protocols, reporting, experiences and more, that often have never been done
  • Returns on investments for vaccines is usually second to none
  • As the world fails to provide basic needs like clean water, we can have children who aren’t affected by a disease and can service themselves and not have to wait for ‘us’
  • The platform and launching pad it provides for the bigger topics and issues
  • The sentiment and hearts and minds that are won within a country – the people who vaccinate their country are their own and acknowledged
  • Its not quite as neo-colonial as white people building stuff in their village
  • You need to reach school age for education and then fully contribute to your society
  • It should never been an either or question – we take on all of these things and some we push to extinction as quickly as we can and other help us get there
  • If the world is an active part of polio eradication (which it is) think how fired up and resolved we will be for the biggy – the end of extreme poverty!

So, why polio?

Having seen the challenges of governance, conflict, distance, infrastructure and acceptance in the hardest to reach places – for anything, I believe polio eradication is a smart move when looking towards the end game of ending extreme poverty.

So that’s why polio.

I will have people who disagree and I will still continue to question myself and look outside the blinkers but I feel I have played the game long enough to see some true benefits of polio eradication.

Also my polio campaigning and the grassroots and political engagement has been my own launching pad of honing my advocacy skills to then step up to other topics and issues in the future which is important to me and my goals of seeing equality, access, opportunity and most importantly JUSTICE for all.

About Living Geo d'Arcy

Experiences are the richest thing in life. Love them and live them.
This entry was posted in 2012 Life, Global Poverty Project Blogs, Pakistan, The End of Polio and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to So, why polio?

  1. Pingback: Irregular Bowel Syndrome | Normal Life in the Life of Lunny

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