Global Health: The Long War on Polio, as Recalled by Its Generals

Photo

Dr. Naveed Sadozai, left, describes efforts to vaccinate sheepherders in Afghanistan in a recent “Coffee With Polio Experts” video posted to YouTube.

“Coffee With Polio Experts” will not be picked up by Hulu anytime soon, but there is something compelling in these short videos put out by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

The formula is simple: Doctors who have spent years fighting polio in the world’s most remote regions sit down over coffee with a World Health Organization representative to tell war stories.

The production values are amateurish — cups rattle, the bustle of the coffee shop intrudes. But the tales can be gripping, and they are recalled by soldiers who save lives rather than taking them.

When the eradication drive began in the 1980s, polio paralyzed 1,000 children a day. Now, fewer than 100 a year suffer that fate. But the virus is never quite extinguished. Field commanders explain how the battle must be fought, literally village-to-village and house-to-house.