As I talk with Rotarians across our District, the most frequent question on many of their minds is “What is the prognosis for eradicating polio in Pakistan and Afghanistan, especially since the United States has departed Afghanistan and the Taliban has taken over?” In response to this interest, I’d like to talk a bit about the situation in these countries.
First, a bit of background on the eradication effort during 2021.  Very sadly, the work of immunizing children against polio and other diseases in Afghanistan, typically conducted by female public health workers, is often dangerous and sometimes deadly.  On March 30, 2021, in two separate attacks, three women were gunned down in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province as they worked to immunize Afghan children. On June 15th of this year, five polio workers were killed and three injured in a series of attacks also in the Nangarhar province.  No groups had claimed responsibility for the killings.
On a much more positive note, the Taliban allowed a door-to-door polio vaccination campaign to take place during the week of November 8th and an additional campaign is slated for December 2021, with the goal of immunizing 10 million children.  At the time of this writing, there had been no reports of any violence directed at polio workers conducting this campaign.  Pakistan also continues with their comprehensive polio vaccination campaigns and during November 2021 also had a large-scale measles and rubella immunization drive taking place.

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© UNICEF/Frank Dejongh
There had only been 1 case of wild polio reported in Pakistan (June) and 1 case of wild polio in Afghanistan (January) during 2021.  However, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) reported that during the week of November 17th, they had received notice of two new cases of wild polio, bringing the 2021 total of wild polio cases up to four.  While this is unfortunate, these case numbers are a dramatic decrease from the 140 cases reported during 2020.  With the resumption of vaccine efforts in Afghanistan, there is great hope and expectation that we will eradicate polio from the face of the earth.  We truly are “this close” to this achievement!
How Can I Help?  Support the District 7850 Polio Fundraising Initiative!
Every dollar donated through End Polio Now will be matched by two dollars from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, tripling your financial impact!
Notable Person Stricken with Polio: Frances Ford Coppola; film director.  “When I was about nine, I had polio, and one of the conditions of polio was -- of course, it was -- people were very frightened for their children, so you tended, if you had it, to be isolated. So there was about a year and a half when I stayed at home. I was paralyzed for a while. And so I basically watched television, and listened to the radio, and played with a tape recorder, and puppets, and my day was made up of those kinds of things.”