Did you know that many diseases have been nearly eradicated in industrialised countries but are still endemic in developing countries? And did you know that some of these diseases are ridiculously easy to eradicate? And, for you sceptics reading this – you know who you are – did you know we have already successfully eradicated one infectious disease from the planet, i.e. smallpox, in 1979?
It’s unfortunate that although simple solutions exist to get rid of a good number of endemic health problems in developing countries (which would relieve some of the pressure on the population of said developing countries, allowing them to focus on other things like, oh, I don’t know – developing?), they are not put in place systematically, in a way that will ensure their annihilation. They are out of sight and out of the minds of those who could help make a difference – i.e. those living in industrialized countries. After coming so far, we just stopped, sometimes just a step away from finishing it off.
Which is where projects such as The Final Inch come in.
Before going more in detail into the project, it’s interesting to know that it comes from the following quote by Alexander Solzhenitsyn (Russian novelist, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970):
“The rule of the final inch consists in this:
Not to shirk this critical work, not to postpone it…
One’s purpose lies not in completing things faster,
But in the attainment of perfection.”
The goal The Final Inch is trying to stain is that of eradicating polio from the developing world.
Polio (full name: Poliomyelitis) is caused by a virus named the poliovirus – I know, HOW original – which causes an inflammation of the spinal cord’s grey matter. Apart from its acute phase, which includes symptoms like fever, pains and gastro-enteric disturbances, the real problem lies in the fact that in an important number of cases, this acute phase is followed by a permanent flaccid paralysis or one or more muscular groups. In other words, the patient loses the ability to use those muscles.
Being paralysed in an industrialized country is already hard enough, even with the support systems that are in place. In a developing country, it can hold entire families back, pouring all their energies into caring for a crippled family member. This is all the more distressing in that this paralysis is so easy to avoid.
Because polio is a disease against which we have not only one, but two very efficient vaccines. The first one was released in 1955 and – get this – the second one, an oral (i.e. extremely easy to administrated) was released in 1962. So basically, a couple of healthcare professionals armed with bottles of oral vaccines could inoculate thousands of children within a matter of weeks.
This is the story The Final Inch: Getting rid of Polio in the Developing World recounts, that of a quiet army fighting the scourge of polio that has been eliminated from the body and, apparently, the minds of the developed world but is quite present in the lives of many in some parts of the developing world.
To read more about the project, you can go here.