The horrors of Polio are a thing of the past for the majority of the world, yet this is only due to a huge concerted effort around the globe. It’s pegged to join Smallpox on the list of infectious diseases humans have successfully managed to eradicate. Current estimates are that just over 80% of children are vaccinated against polio, with thanks to initiatives like India’s Immunization Days.

However, we can’t celebrate just yet. The conditions faced by the inoculation teams and volunteers are constantly on a knife edge. They are subject to the whims of public opinion, and set backs like the CIA imitating them, have prejudiced people against them. Events like these are thought to be to blame to the brief resurgence of Polio in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Few conflicts make headlines quite as frequently as the Syrian crisis, and while no concrete conclusions can be made, Polio vaccination rates have taken a downward turn in recent years.

Take a look at Syria and Iraq over the last couple of decades (Select/Play by year in the top left). Obviously we come to the correlation/causation problem, and it’s always difficult to draw direct association, but the data is interesting none the less.

The possible impact of both gulf wars are are visible in Iraq, and more recently Syria has seen a decline. The WHO are wise to this, reporting an outbreak affecting 35 children in 2013, the first outbreak since 1999. While the conflict has it’s own direct casualties, we can’t ignore the impact it will have to the eradication efforts of several diseases.

With all the debate being around military intervention and religious radicalism, other issues in the region seem to have been pushed to the side. We can but hope that the brave efforts of people on the ground can stall the spread, and campaign for stability in the area.


Thanks for reading, this has been a little self-indulging as it’s given me the excuse to try out some new visualization tools, but I thought I should try to touch on something worthwhile.

Data acquired from the WHO Data Repository