Skip to main content
jkennedy2_fighters against boko haram_Anadolu Agency via getty images Anadolu Agency | getty images

The Politics of Polio Eradication

The barriers to polio eradication are no longer medical; the disease does not occur where vaccination programs operate unhindered. Successful immunization campaigns must secure the support of de facto political leaders – whether of an internationally recognized state or a of vilified militant organization.

CAMBRIDGE – A few years ago, the global campaign to eradicate polio seemed to have stalled. After decades of eradication efforts, the virus remained stubbornly endemic in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria. Then, in 2013 and 2014, it was found to have returned to seven previously polio-free countries in Africa and the Middle East, prompting the World Health Organization to declare the disease’s resurgence a “public-health emergency of international concern.”

Despite this recidivism, the world today is closer than ever to eradicating polio. In 2015, there were just 74 new cases of the disease – 80% fewer than the previous year and the lowest annual total ever. And all of the cases were concentrated in just two countries, 54 in Pakistan and 20 in Afghanistan. Moreover, it has been eighteen months since the virus was last detected in Africa.

The reasons behind this remarkable turnaround are instructive, illustrating the challenges facing public-health workers and the best ways to overcome them.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.


Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.;
  1. benami154_Yousef MasoudSOPA ImagesLightRocket via Getty Images_palestine Yousef Masoud/SOPA IMAGES/LightRocket via Getty Images

    Forgetting Palestine

    Shlomo Ben-Ami

    The two-state solution is virtually dead in the water, and the international community has largely abandoned the Palestinian cause. At this point, there is little to stop Israel from cementing the one-state reality that its right-wing government has long sought, regardless of whether that leads to a permanent civil war.

  2. sachs313_SebastionBozonAFPGettyImages_EUflagtrump Sebastion Bozon/AFP/Getty Images

    Europe Must Oppose Trump

    Jeffrey D. Sachs

    European leaders should recognize that a significant majority of Americans reject Trump’s malignant narcissism. By opposing Trump and defending the international rule of law, Europeans and Americans together can strengthen world peace and transatlantic amity for generations to come.

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated Cookie policy, Privacy policy and Terms & Conditions