Back in 1985, a massive International project started with the noble goal of eliminating polio from the planet. Thanks to vaccination programs the disease had been virtually eliminated in the Western hemisphere, but still ravaged children and adults in the undeveloped nations in the rest of the world.
Rotary International, including the New Ulm Rotary Club, pledged to raise $120 million, but raised more than double that in three years to help provide vaccines to every child in the world. With the help of the World Health Organization and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the goal is inching agonizingly closer. Today the disease is endemic in only four countries -?Nigeria, India, Pakistand and Afghanistan.
And yet the goal of a polio free world is still too far away. Part of the problem is outlined in a story from earlier this week. In Pakistan, gunmen attacked a van full of medical workers, killing nine of them. Among the work the medical workers do is vaccinating children against polio and other diseases.
Sadly, islamic militants and reactionaries are opposing this work, claiming the vaccines are a western plot to make their children sterile. Some oppose it simply because Western aid workers might give people the idea that we aren’t their enemy.
Rotary and other groups will continue the fight against polio. It is sad, however, that this project, which does so much good, is being delayed by such wrong thinking.