Helen Epstein in the New York Review of Books says polio eradication campaigns aren’t such a good idea. Even if they weren’t mixed up with CIA spying, they wouldn’t be such a good idea, she says. They might might seem like a good idea, but…
The killings in Pakistan—which played out in a series of attacks in several different cities on December 18 and December 19—were heinous. But they also point to some serious problems with the heroic approach. For one thing, in conflict areas where the US is trying to route out insurgents with drone strikes, the UN is often not seen as neutral. But more fundamentally, the lavishly funded, multiple immunizations the polio program requires don’t always make sense—to local political leaders and warlords, or to ordinary poor people who are struggling just to keep their children alive. In order to avoid further tragedies, donors should work more closely with local people to improve the health of children in general, rather than strive for some romantic victory over a single virus alone.
She may have a point, but “romantic” is insulting. As she says, polio is horrible. Improve the health of children in general by all means, but also get rid of polio. Most countries in the world have done it; Pakistan and Afghanistan and Nigeria should do it too.