This morning I opened Daily Kos on my browser and scanned for interesting diaries to read as I sipped my coffee. One that addressed the folly of a megachurch hit with a run of measles cases after having campaigned against vaccinations seemed worth a read, and it was. [Find it here....] But then I noticed something interesting in the comments. Empower Ink introduced a parallel discussion concerning recollections of Kossacks who had received polio vaccinations back in the mid-fifties and such. Fascinating! At least for me, as I am a Rotarian. What's the connection, and why might this lead to an "uplifting" further story? Please join me below the fold....
Recently I came across a comment that said that DK had become too weighted with negative stories, or something to that effect. I'm fairly new as a diarist, so I can't refer back to earlier experiences here. But I'll accept the insight, as it has set me to thinking about how we as Progressives do have an obligation to picture a better future if we are to be persuasive with other Americans.
I thought of that as I was reading about people who had received polio vaccine "back in the day." And I decided I should share the news that we may well witness the demise of polio -- worldwide -- within a very few years. Rotary International began just such a campaign back in the 1980s, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has added Big Bucks to what Rotarians themselves have been contributing.
Now, money plus commitment from America and other Western nations is great, but the really "uplifting" part for me is to see how people in the so-called Third World can get behind such an idea. With their lives, if necessary, to save others from a lifetime disability or a gruesome death.
And so I'll reprint (with permission of my editor) a piece I inserted not long ago in my local Rotary club's newsletter. You'll see what I mean....
The Polio Fight in Pakistan. The New York Times recently ran a story about what Rotary is doing to fight polio in this most difficult country. Rotarians on the Internet (ROTI) carried much of the story. As it states, our polio eradication campaign began in 1988 and Pakistan, which has had Rotary chapters since 1927, now constitutes the Front Lines of the campaign.Want to find out more? Here's the End Polio Now site -- you might want to find the Blog within -- and here's the "Strategy Overview" on polio by the Gates Foundation.... If you were feeling that things today were "hopeless," I'll trust that this will have given you a measure of hopefulness!
The article may have been prompted by the news that one brave Pakistani, who oversaw a Rotary polio clinic in his Karachi school, was killed by gunmen in May. This man had done much to anger the Taliban for his refusal to limit the education at his school to Koran study. Not only did it provide a liberal arts education, but he had admitted girls besides.
His school was located in an industrial part of Karachi. The neighborhood was known for its gangs and for the presence of the Taliban. A rumor was begun that said this man was Jewish, and he was made the subject of a fatwa. And, as reported, eventually he was killed despite best local efforts to protect him. As The New York Times observed, and as ROTI members repeated, “Rotarians...work in places that terrify government officials.”
But what seems significant is that this man’s clinic is not closing. The fight is now led by a Rotary-affiliated textile executive. He and his associates have compensated the families of rural vaccinators who have died at the hands of the Taliban. The relatives of the slain are then persuaded to appear at news conferences at which they then urge others to carry on the work of vaccination.
And it appears to be having some positive results. Only, more creative ways now have to be used to reach the children. One of these is called “transit point vaccination.” To quote from the story (carried by ROTI):
“At a tollbooth on the highway into Karachi, Ghulam Jilani’s team takes advantage of an army checkpoint. As soldiers stop each bus to search for guns, Rotary vaccinators hop aboard. On a typical day, they reach 800 children. Yes, Mr. Jilani said, the soldiers’ presence may intimidate some resistant families into complying. Also, he added brightly: ‘We scare them a little. We say, “You are entering a city with the disease. Don’t you want your children safe?” ’ About 90 percent comply, he said, sometimes after a public argument between a father who believes the rumors and a mother, outside their home and at times backed by other women on the bus, insisting the children be protected.”
The article continues by noting that military checkpoints near the Afghan frontier areas controlled by the Taliban provide similar cover for the vaccination teams. So, while the vaccinators have been kept from their work to a degree -- given that it would not be safe for them to enter villages directly -- they are still able to reach the population by taking advantage of local travel patterns and the regulation of traffic by the military.
Even more dangerous is the willingness of some women to smuggle the vaccine (packed on ice, no less!) into their villages for distribution to trusted neighbors. This is arranged by nurses at hospitals guarded by the military.
All of this causes me to reflect on the different gender roles in such a society. While it is the men on both sides who bear arms and lead the respective opposing forces, the “foot soldiers” in this war against polio are often the unarmed women: vaccinators, nurses, and mothers who are willing to risk their lives to save children from the disease. Just consider the women on that bus (mentioned in the quote), who would dare to speak publically against the intimidation of the Taliban....