Africa’s Progress Against ‘Ancient Scourges’ One Of Humanity’s ‘Great Achievements’

“We in journalism mostly focus on problems, but one of the remarkable changes in the developing world has been the decline of these ancient scourges,” including trachoma, leprosy and polio, Nicolas Kristof writes in his New York Times column. “When I first traveled through West Africa, as a student backpacker more than 30 years ago, I was haunted by the beggars disabled by blindness, leprosy and polio,” but traveling now “on my annual win-a-trip journey with a university student, Erin Luhmann of the University of Wisconsin, [we are] encountering a fundamentally improved landscape than the one I saw when I was her age,” Kristof says. He outlines some of the prevention and treatment advances made against trachoma, leprosy and polio, writing, “The progress goes far beyond these three ailments.” He notes “[t]he number of children dying worldwide before the age of five has plunged from 12 million in 1990 to 6.9 million in 2011” and, “[a]s the disease burden declines, the economy surges.” He continues, “Journalists and humanitarians understandably focus on unmet needs, and that can leave the impression that the story of global health is a depressing one of failure. In fact, it’s an inspiring story of progress.” Kristof adds, “We need to do more, especially against AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, but one of the great achievements of humanity in recent decades has been the marginalization of ancient and dreaded diseases” (7/17).

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