The Impatient Optimist

Recently, Bill Gates delivered the 2013 Richard Dimbleby Lecture, in which he discussed the struggle to eradicate polio from the world.

The good news is, that it is now only endemic in three countries – Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.

This in itself is no small achievement – polio is a disease that takes weeks to diagnose, which means the percentage of the population you need to immunise is higher, in this case 95%.

Take a country like India, with over a billion people – 75,000 new babies are born every day, and each of them requires several rounds of immunisation. That means that you need 200,000 vaccines per day, that need to be taken to rural communities, while being refrigerated, often that need to be carried for miles on foot by health workers. No wonder it took a staggering 2,000,000 people working on the programme – but they did it!

Unfortunately, you can’t stop fighting it until it’s eradicated, but with only three countries to go, the plan is to read that milestone by 2018. But more than being about one single disease, Gates points out…

Polio eradication is a proving ground, a test. It will reveal what human beings are capable of, and suggest how ambitious we can be about the future.

Together, we can achieve great things.

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