Here at the Global Poverty Project, we’re often asked why we campaign on polio. For those new to the issue, the link between polio and poverty is not immediately obvious.
But the truth is, poverty and polio are inextricably linked. On the one hand, those living in extreme poverty are far more likely to contract polio. On the other, being paralysed by polio can prevent a child from rising out of poverty.
Why is this the case? Just take a look at the areas affected by polio – these are places where issues such as poor water and sanitation, inadequate nutrition and a lack of access to even the most basic health care services can combine to create the perfect conditions for communicable diseases like polio to spread.
Meanwhile, contracting polio can cast a cloud over a child’s future. In some places, the lack of physiotherapy, mobility aids, disabled access and even the stigma of the disease can prevent a polio-affected child from finishing school, getting a job or even getting married. Instead of being able to contribute to the productivity and wellbeing of their family and greater community, they can end up falling deeper into poverty.
This is what the global effort to end polio is all about – reaching the children who would normally miss out on the vaccine and ensuring they are protected against polio. Whilst doing that, we are also developing the tools and tactics to reach them with food, clean water and other health services. But most of all, we can wipe out this disease forever, ensuring that no child will ever again be dragged into poverty because of this easily preventable disease.