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Why Should Distributing the Polio Vaccine in Pakistan lead to Death?

US Army Capt. administring a vaccine to a Pakistani child, 2006. Photo: US Military/Wikimedia Commons

The huge rise in militancy across Pakistan (pdf) is also creating a number of hazards for aid workers. On New Year’s Day gunmen on motorbikes ambushed and killed six female aid workers and a doctor in Khayber-Pakhtunkhwa province. It marked the latest in a series of attacks on polio vaccination charity workers.

On December 18, five female aid workers were killed as they were administering polio vaccinations. The following day another polio supervisor was killed along with her driver in north-western town of Peshawar. » More

ISN Insights: Look Back, Week Ahead

 

Last week, ISN Insights looked at:

This week, we will be focusing on the issue of global health from the following perspectives: global health funding, horizontal vs. vertical health aid, the ‘rationing’ of care, the global health governance architecture and the AIDS pandemic.

Make sure to ‘tune in’ each day for the newest ISN Insights package. And if you’re an active Twitter or Facebook user, look us up and become a follower!

Polio is Back

Mothers and babies waiting in line for a Polio vaccination; photo: hdptcar/flickr

A mere two weeks after World Polio Day, a fast moving polio outbreak has struck three central African countries. The first confirmed re-appearance of the disease was reported on 4 November in the Republic of Congo (also known as Congo-Brazzaville), but the disease then quickly spread to both the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola. Within a week, the UN reported 226 infections and 104 deaths, with numbers rising quickly.

Polio is a contagious viral disease that attacks the body’s nervous system. Left untreated, polio can cause paralysis and death. It strikes children and young adults of both sexes equally. Usually, however, less than 10 percent of cases actually develop symptoms, and only 1 percent of these remain permanently paralyzed. This particular outbreak, meanwhile, is proving past medical statistics wrong.

According to the joint communiqué released by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the rate of mortality for the current outbreak is alarmingly high. This has spurred the government in Brazzaville and numerous international agencies to launch a large-scale emergency vaccination campaign, which is to begin today. The vaccination drive is supposed to provide vaccinations to 3 million children and adults in central Africa.

Over the last decade, the number of polio cases reported annually had ground to a virtual standstill. Nigeria, for example, long considered to be Africa’s polio hot spot, had an impressive 98 percent drop in cases since 2009. International health authorities are therefore still musing on the causes of last month’s outbreak. It seems that the immunity of the children, teenagers and young adults in the region may have been lower than expected. Furthermore, today’s virus seems to be of a relatively new Indian strain that was first found in Angola in 2007 and which now slowly found its way further north.

Although the current outbreak may be considered an unexpected setback in what can otherwise be considered a fairly successful fight against the disease, we must never become complacent. As promised time and time again, polio must be made history.

The ISN holds an excellent set of resources on infectious diseases, epidemics, pandemics, and disease control. In addition, the ISN Digital Library also offers a comprehensive list of international health organizations.

The World Cup: Hoping for the Best

World cup of hope? Courtesy of mikkelz/flickr

If you think that HIV/AIDS is Africa’s most serious problem, think again.

Malaria is the biggest known killer on the continent. Malaria is an infectious disease produced by a nucleus holding cell called Plasmodium. There are many variations of the disease but only one is fatal to humans, the Plasmodium Falciparum. In Africa the disease causes $12 billion worth of economic losses every year and worldwide it kills more than any other communicable disease except tuberculosis.

The ongoing FIFA World Cup in South Africa will help stimulate the strained economies on the continent and will allow states to sustain the costs of the infectious disease, thus helping people get access to the aid and treatments they need. The event has opened up 650,000 jobs to South Africans and the expected income for the whole event is around $7 billion (approximately R55 billion.)

After the World Cup is finished some 144,000 jobs will remain, allowing people that may have been out of work to continue to profit. Hopefully the income generated over this month, as well as months and years to come will make for better treatments for malaria and other infectious diseases ravaging the continent. An unfortunate factor is that malaria usually hits the poor population particularly hard and often prevents them from even accessing aid. There is hope that this event will help reverse this trend.

With the permanent jobs created by the event and with more money flowing to development and health projects, the strains on the poorest may be alleviated and access to treatment may be boosted.

For the sake of the African people, I hope it works.

Make sure to check out our recent Special Report on the World Cup and its impact beyond the football pitch.

Sam is our youngest ISN intern yet and attends the George C. Marshall High School in Falls Church, Virginia. His interest include world history, sports and biology.

It’s World AIDS Day

Protoype of a sculputre to be unveiled today by the Desert AIDS Project in Palm Springs, CA / Photo: Jayel Aheram, flickr

Desert AIDS Project sculpture prototype / Photo: Jayel Aheram, flickr

Universal access and human rights is the theme for this year’s World AIDS Day. For 21 years, we’ve used 1 December to remind ourselves that the virus exists during the other 364 days of the year as well.

By the way, the US recently announced that it would lift a ban on people carrying the HIV virus from entering the country, a move that was long overdue.

From the ISN Digital Library:

    • HIV in the UK from the UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) in London

 

 

You can scan all of our offerings concerning AIDS/HIV here.

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