War, Conflict Hinders Global Polio Eradication Efforts

In an opinion piece in The Conversation, John Rhodes, a fellow at the Royal College of Pathologists, examines how war, conflict and distrust in Syria are hindering global polio eradication efforts. “War in the country has seriously affected health services and immunization programs, and suspected polio in 22 children has led to the urgent vaccination of 2.4 million more,” he notes, adding, “Despite the huge push to get rid of polio, its eradication is judged to be at a tipping point between success and failure, with some estimating that failure could lead to a widespread resurgence within a decade. And the cases amid the Syrian crisis and another new epidemic in Somalia show eradication of this dreadful disease, which can lead to paralysis, is far from an easy task.” However, he continues, “eradication was achieved in Somalia in 2007 and the [Global Polio Eradication Initiative] believes it can be achieved again.” He writes, “[I]t is clear that polio doesn’t remain isolated if outbreaks aren’t tackled and that war and conflict have the power to disrupt plans to rid us of the disease,” concluding, “If 2015 remains the target for the global defeat of polio, we will need to think about the children also caught up in conflict zones” (10/28).