Mary F. Calvert
"POLIO'S LINE IN THE SAND"
Polio is a highly infectious virus that cripples those children it does not kill. Religious zealotry and misinformation have coerced villagers in the Muslim north of Nigeria into refusing polio vaccinations and led to the reemergence of polio only a few years after it nearly joined smallpox on the CDC’s list of eradicated diseases. The polio vaccine was banned in northern Nigeria in the summer of 2003 due to claims by clerics and politicians that the vaccines were tainted and were a Western ploy to spread HIV and make the Muslim girls sterile. Since the ban, over 3000 children were crippled by polio and over 20 countries re-infected with the Nigeria strain of the virus.
As the Muslim suspicion of the polio vaccine lingers on, Nigeria is coping with hundreds of polio survivors, children and now young adults who are crippled or paralyzed and the continuing Muslim-Christian friction in Africa's most populous and potentially unstable nations.