Opinion: Polio Effort Ignores Poor Countries’ Most Pressing Health Woes

Leaders of the global campaign to eradicate polio are not paying attention to calls in some of their target countries to focus on more immediate medical issues such as malaria, diarrhea, and the lack of clinics, clean water, and other health issues, a journalism professor argues in a New York Times column.

Thomas Abraham of the University of Hong Kong, who is writing a book on the polio campaign, criticizes a “top-down” global health structure in which aid agencies, donor countries, and big philanthropies focus on specific diseases and implement programs without consulting local populations or cooperating with other, broader health efforts.

“Is it not more important, or at least equally important, to deliver clean water and sanitation as it is to deliver vaccines?” he writes. “It is cold comfort to save a child from polio if the child later succumbs to malaria or diarrhea from dirty drinking water.”

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