Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Polio: A Journalist's Frustration; The World's Failure

Polio leaves victims as beggars. Photo by Peter Tobia
As a journalism student, I once heard a former newspaper editor talk about his frustration that after many years of exposes, hammering at corruption and social ills, the same problems continued. And so, when that "been there, done that" feeling swept over me.  I knew it was time for me to leave daily journalism as well.
The issue of eradicating polio is one of those that I helped to champion. The world thought it was near the brink of success back in 1999.  That didn't happen but -- good news -- as I reported recently in writing about former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's crusade to do the right thing -- the United Nations declared polio vanquished in India just in March.
Now, though, we are back to the past. Today, the World Health Organization declared a public health emergency around polio. Fifteen years after India was thought to be the last holdout of the virus, polio  is now found in 10 countries. Pakistan, where health workers doing rural vaccinations have been murdered, is a particular hotspot. Of the 74 cases of polio reported globally so far this year, 59 have been in Pakistan. Syria and Cameroon are also high on the list. A total of 417 cases were reported overall last year.
Lest we forget what polio looks like and the horrendous toll it takes, here are photos taken by Peter Tobia, when he worked with Huntly Collins on a series I edited for the Philadelphia Inquirer. The project took them to India to document efforts to finally wipe the scourge from the planet. Maybe some day….

By the way, Huntly reflected on her own transition on leaving the Inquirer here.

And you can read the polio series she wrote here: 


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