I was pleased to see Alanna Shaikh comment on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s generous gift, and critical commitment to help us move closer to global polio eradication. Ms. Shaikh noted in her commentary, there are Muslim populations which have been reluctant to take advantage of the polio vaccine, due to false rumors that it may lead to infertility or the spread of HIV. It is these misconceptions which make the efforts of Saudi Arabia to dispel myths and require vaccination for every Haj Pilgrim momentous.
On top of dealing with drones, a Taliban insurgency, and a government crackdown on that insurgency, the more than 2 million recently displaced persons in Pakistan will be forced to face a new and equally daunting challenge coming in three weeks, the rainy season and the malaria-bearing mosquitoes that soon follow.
This threat is particularly dire because the 18,000-plus families arriving every day, a migration that the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has called one the worst since the genocide in Rwanda, have been displaced from regions, the Swat, Lower Dir, and Buner districts of the Northwest Frontier Province, where malaria is not endemic. Refugees are ill-prepared to deal with the disease both because the refugee population has no pre-existing immunity to malaria and because the flow of internally displaced people (IDPs) is quickly overwhelming available resources, including access to life-saving bednets.
In places where there are few cars, where roads remain unpaved, where basic infrastructure services such as clean water and electricity are scant, mobile phone technology has become an enabling power for millions of people. As many readers of UN Dispatch already know, this is particularly the case in the field of global health, where mobile technology is revolutionizing healthcare delivery in the developing world (see some examples here).
Today is World Health Day, a day set aside to highlight a priority area of concern for the World Health Organization. This year’s focus is on the safety of health facilities, and the readiness of health workers who treat those affected by emergencies – a challenge, particularly in remote and resource-poor environments where health workers may have infrequent contact with home offices.