A year ago, in mid-2014 the UN in particular and world health experts in general feared that preventable diseases were making a comeback because of the continued success of Islamic terrorist groups out to seize power or disrupt government control in large areas around the world. But because of several fortunate events, epidemic diseases like polio have stopped spreading instead and it now seems like polio is close to extinction once more.
In 2014 the success of ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) in Iraq and Syria, the continued presence of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, al Shabaab in Somalia and Boko Haram in Nigeria was very bad news indeed for organizations trying to eliminate communicable diseases like polio. All of these Islamic terror groups believe that vaccinations are a Western attempt to poison Moslem children. Thus we had polio reappearing in Iraq and Syria largely because of anti-vaccination efforts by ISIL. In 2014 there were over a million children in Iraq and Syria who were inaccessible to vaccination efforts because of the anti-vaccination efforts in both countries.
But in the last year ISIL quietly dropped its aggressive efforts against vaccination while al Shabaab and Boko Haram were driven away from population centers. In June 2014 the Pakistani army began an offensive against the last Taliban sanctuary in North Waziristan. That offensive continues and in its wake several hundred thousand children suddenly had access to polio vaccination. The Islamic terrorist violence against vaccination in Africa was diminished to the extent that there have been no known cases of polio in Africa in a year.
None of this decline in polio cases was accidental. In early 2014 the Iraqi government began preparations to distribute polio vaccine to 20 million Iraqis. This was in response to the March 2014 confirmation that the first case of polio had been found in Iraq since 2000. Since then there have apparently been dozens of additional children crippled or killed by polio. This was the result of Pakistani based Islamic terrorists infected by polio (but not crippled by it, which is common with many people exposed to polio or other viruses like influenza) coming into Syria since 2012. Syria had polio outbreaks earlier in 2013 and has been unable to carry out a polio vaccination program because of the violence and the refusal of some rebel groups to cooperate. An analysis of the DNA of the polio in Syria showed it was similar to polio DNA found in Pakistan. The polio that infected a six month old Iraqi child was analyzed and found to be the same one being found in Syria.
Four years of war in Syria have left the health care system in a shambles. Over 100,000 children have been unable to receive vaccinations and as a result polio and measles are showing up again. This disruption of public health efforts is a common side effect of energetic Islamic terrorist activities. In 2013 there were over fifty cases of polio in Syria, after having been absent since the late 1990s. In 2013 the vaccination rate for Syrian children fell from 95 percent to under 80 percent and declining even more in 2014. In addition to polio there have already been several outbreaks of measles, which is less deadly than polio but also largely absent from Syria for decades. In 2013 there were over 10,000 known cases. Measles, mumps and rubella hits adults as well as children because few adults received booster vaccinations after childhood. Polio can also hit adults who did not receive a booster dose of vaccine. Adults are also liable to get typhus and other rapidly spreading diseases that have not been a problem in Syria for a long time. Public health experts expected outbreaks of all these diseases in Syria in 2014 and even more in subsequent years if the fighting did not end. The same patterns of disease show up in all areas where Islamic terrorists are very active. But in Syria more of the most vulnerable people were able to get out of the country. In refugee camps or outside them vaccinations were available, no questions asked.
Despite the interference from Islamic terrorist groups in the Middle East the UN and World Health Organization were able to vaccinate 25 million children in the region against polio. This is important because more than one vaccination (which is just a few drops of vaccine in a child’s mouth) is necessary to maintain the polio resistance of children. Keep this resistance high is important when cases are breaking out in the region and lots of kids are being exposed to the polio virus again, or for the first time.