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“Things are going in the wrong direction and have to get back on track before something terrible happens,” said Gregory Hartl, a W.H.O. spokesman. “So we’re saying to the Pakistanis, the Syrians and the Cameroonians, ‘You’ve really got to get your acts together.’ ” — from a 2014 article in the New York Times

Things have gotten infinitely worse since the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency four years ago for only the second time since regulations permitting it to do so were adopted in 2007.  In Pakistan, Syria, Cameroon, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kenya and Equatorial Guinea. Polio is now spreading, and according to my sources embedded in the U.S. military and Lancet there’s every reason to believe a cover-up is in progress.

Unlike smallpox, polio eludes human efforts at eradication. And U.S. military operations certainly aren’t helping the people whose countries are now plagued by neo-imperialist forces inserting themselves the way in which they do, whether or not anything is being hushed up for self-serving reasons. A child denied healthcare, a kid being bombed… such youngsters are made more vulnerable without question. The list of countries above is a highly select list, by the way.

We should not be surprised that endemic pockets of polio remain in besieged parts of Asia and Africa (where AFRICOM has a serious, pervasive presence), and the hoped-for announcement of worldwide eradication, anticipated for several years, remains in the future.

Edward Jenner (1749-1823), the pioneer of smallpox vacinnation, predicted in the early 19th century that his discovery would lead to the eradication of that dreaded disease. It took almost 200 years. Polio vaccines are only 60 years old.

The polio vaccines (there were several) are inevitably the center of any history of this disease. And Gareth Williams’ Paralyzed with Fear: The Story of Polio is an excellent book for anyone interested in that aspect of this subject. My focus here, however, is on a concern that lies elsewhere. In the realm where the reader has some responsibility for its present proliferation.

That polio primarily affected  previously healthy children and adolescents was part of its newsworthy drama. That and the horrible damage it does to (mostly) young bodies. It could kill, and did kill, but it left many more with permanent and disabling weakness, so its victims were not simply buried to become another statistic, but were constant reminders of the power of the disease. Terrible as it was, though, polio has never been a world player in the mortality and morbidity statistics. It owed its high visibility to the nature of its victims, and to the fact that the United States was the country hardest hit.

The longest-serving President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945), probably had polio. “Probably” is the operative word because it could have been what brought Catch-22 author Joseph Heller down, Guillain-Barre disorder, named after the two French neurologists who first described it about the time the 32nd President was falling ill. But whether or not Roosevelt actually had polio or not is historically irrelevant: he believed he did and so did the nation (although they rarely if ever saw him as a “cripple”: his public appearances were beautifully and cleverly stage-managed in a way that would probably be impossible today).

Roosevelt’s affliction (acquired before he became President) materially increased polio’s visibility, and was the catalyst for the phenomenally successful campaign to raise money to help victims and to fund scientists seeking to understand the disease.

But today the most influential forces in the U.S. are focused on matters which guarantee the spread of polio, its dreaded revival. And so I ask citizens in “the richest country on earth” to think about exercising some restraint abroad, using their democratic dynamic to force changes in foreign policy.

Before we are all crippled beyond recognition.

— Readers can reach Muhammad Othman by writing to couriercrescent@gmail.com.

 

 

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  1. K SHESHU BABU says:

    The residents of US should thwart any attempts of elite super rich corporates in consolidating their powers