Polio Eradication In Conflict Areas Requires Securing Support Of Political, Militant Leaders

Project Syndicate: The Politics of Polio Eradication
Jonathan Kennedy, teaching fellow at the UCL School of Public Policy and research associate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Cambridge, and Domna Michailidou economic adviser for OECD’s Economics Department and teaching fellow at the Center for Development Studies at the University of Cambridge and the UCL School of Public Policy

“…Because immunization programs are led by national governments and the WHO, … it can be difficult to carry out vaccinations in areas where militants wage war against the state. The fall in the number of polio cases largely resulted from improved access to such areas. … [However, using] troops to assert control over conflict-affected areas is not the only way to improve access for polio workers, and in some cases it may not be the most effective. In Afghanistan, Somalia, and Syria, … immunization workers adapted to the political reality and worked with militants to gain access to areas under their control. … The lesson is clear. Successful immunization campaigns must secure the support of de facto political leaders — whether of an internationally recognized state or of a vilified militant organization. As objectionable as working with groups like the Islamic State might be, it is important to remember that the main objective of efforts like the campaign to eradicate polio is to improve the health of people wherever they may live” (3/15).