In 1988, the world united in solidarity to eliminate the polio virus from our planet by the year 2000. Well, that time has now come and passed. Have we made great progress in the fight against such a debilitating virus? Absolutely. Has it been forgotten that polio still lingers in some of the poorest, least equipped places to handle this virus? I believe that answer is yes. Fortunately, the cause has been brought to light in recent months with a few exciting initiatives and announcements.

A recent BBC News article brings to light a film that provides great insight into this daily struggle, both for those trying to eradicate the disease and for those living with it. It details the story of a 38 minute documentary, The Final Inch, and how it has just been nominated for an Oscar in the short documentary category. The Final Inch is a story about protagonist M Gulzar Saifi, a 26-year-old Indian. Diagnosed with polio at 6 months old, Gulzar Saifi was raised in a village that didn’t vaccinate its children and suffered from great illiteracy and unawareness of the risks they faced. Thanks to the support of his family, as he outlines in the documentary, he is a post-graduate in economics and he runs a teaching center for people of the village.

The documentary also follows different health workers across India in their efforts to vaccinate children across India. What is most pertinent about the documentary is that it provides a personal touch to an often little known struggle. Gulzar Saifi’s region of India, Uttar Pradesh, has over 50% of the country’s recorded polio cases. According to the BBC article, “Extreme poverty, dismal hygienic conditions and resistance by the state’s Muslim community to the vaccination drive have all contributed to the problem.” Further, rumors that the vaccinations were secretly birth control have led to a shunning of treatment.

This documentary and recent troubles in Nigeria, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan have brought the virus back into the light. This past January, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, along with the British and German governments and other funding sources, announced a new pipeline of $630 million in funding to further the eradication cause across the world. The NY Times writes a good article about the topic here. It is this funding that is integral, because eliminating the last signs of the virus from our planet that prove to be most difficult and costly. Gulzar Saifi described it as not a disease, but a disaster because of how it affects a person. It is one that we must continue to attack with great resolve because if we do not remain vigilant, many children’s lives could hang in the balance. Bill Gates captures this sentiment in saying, “‘That is no alternative at all. We don’t let children die because it is fatiguing to save them.’”

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