Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Pardon my French, but this is totally f***ed up. That such a thing can happen in our world of medical miracles such as HMOs, Botox and stomach stapling makes me want to spit nails.
The largest epidemic of polio in recent years has broken out in Nigeria and is spreading across central and western Africa, threatening 74 million children with the paralysing disease and jeopardising hopes of eradicating it from the world by the end of the year. . . .

"It has spread as far south as the Central African Republic, so it is on the border with the Congo, which has been one of the great successes of the polio eradication programme," said Bruce Aylward, the global coordinator of the WHO-led programme.

"We're seeing five times the number of cases in west and central Africa that we did last year - 301 as opposed to 58. We could see thousands of children paralysed across west and central Africa at a time when the virus should be eradicated. The countries it is spreading into have very weak immunisation programmes, reaching only 50%."

Kul Gautam, deputy director of Unicef, said the Darfur case was "the latest tragedy to hit children in a region beset with multiple tragedies. It is unthinkable that mothers have fled to avoid atrocities only to find their children at danger from a virus that Sudan had eradicated.

"Too many children across the region are defenceless against the disease. We are on the verge of a totally unnecessary public health tragedy. This has all the potential to become a humanitarian crisis."
Believe it or not, back in the 1970s we really thought we were coming upon the end to diseases like polio and tuberculosis forever. The future of medicine was going to be fighting things like cancer and heart disease instead.

Health crises in Africa point up the fact that health is not just -- or even primarily -- medical. It is social and political.


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