Diplomacy saves lives. Not only can good foreign relations prevent the outbreak of war and violence between and within countries, but it also allows for the trust and respect necessary for global development initiatives to work.
In 1988 UNICEF and the Rotary Club International joined forces to eradicate polio across the globe. The project was shockingly successful and, as a result, the number of estimated polio cases decreased from 400,000 to 7,000 between 1980 and 1999. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation contributed to the cause and helped immunize 2.5 billion young people in 200 countries with the help of almost 200 million volunteers. By 2003 only 784 cases of polio remained on the planet.
Yet as promising as these numbers appear, the goal stated in 1988 was to eliminate polio by the year 2000. This did not happen. In 2003, the number of polio cases dwindling, a conspiracy theory transpired. In a primarily Muslim region of Nigeria, a few imams surmised that the polio vaccine contained sterilizing agents that would make their daughters infertile. The life-saving vaccination was conclusively dubbed to be a CIA plot. As this rumor spread to Afghanistan and Pakistan, groups such as the Taliban spoke out against the previously well-received shot. The number of polio cases in children grew to 2,020 by 2006. In 2008 only Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan still had polio circulating through water supplies and infected children.
In 2013 polio cases of the same strain found in Pakistan were discovered in Somalia and Syria. Both countries trained their military’s in Pakistan. Iraq reported its first polio case in 14 years this March 2014, and the United Nations has branded Syria’s climb to 38 reported cases of polio “the most challenging outbreak in the history of polio eradication.” Fears are skyrocketing that the dreadful disease is spreading throughout the Middle East.
Many claim that violence and displacement are primary causes of the setback in Iraq. Polio, an incurable disease, spreads quickly in overcrowded regions prone to poverty and malnourishment. It is preventable, though, and it’s a shame that less than favorable political and ideological relations contributed to its present resurgence.
– Jaclyn Stutz