Afghanistan – where war, Taliban, drones and mudslides keep this country of hospitality, amazing people and amazing food on its knees and in its cemeteries. And as if this country has not had enough to contend with, a little girl sits on the floor in her home made of brick and mud suffering from polio.
Sometimes it’s just too much to bear.
Polio was near eradicated. For 25 years the World Health Organization promoted an aggressive world-wide vaccination campaign. The oral polio vaccine is simple – a couple of flavored pink drops at 2 month intervals and then a final booster dose a few years later, 4 doses in all. It doesn’t hurt. It’s safe. And it works.
Here’s a bit about polio*: It loves hot weather, thriving in conditions that kill other viruses. Although it’s primarily in children it can be spread through others, through porous borders, through trade. It lives in the throat and the intestinal tract and is spread person to person. It is spread through oral secretions and through the feces of the infected person, so in places where the sewer systems are inadequate — refugee camps, poor villages, places where many people are living in close quarters without proper bathroom facilities. Already this year, a couple of months before the true hot season has begun there are 68 cases reported worldwide. While that seems miniscule compared to the billions of people in the world, last year at this time the numbers were about a third of this. And of those 68, 54 of them come from Pakistan.
But Syria too is in trouble. Prior to the war (or uprising because uprising perhaps caters to our prim sensibilities, but let’s be honest – it’s a war) the vaccination rate of Syria was high, upwards of 90%. But that has fallen dramatically and the first case of polio in years was reported this past year.
Vaccinations and vaccinators are suspect in Pakistan, the part of the world where most of these cases have emerged. At one time the CIA launched an undercover mission, using vaccination camps as their cover. Since that time any vaccination program is suspect.
So now polio has spread to Afghanistan, and a little girl sits on the floor. The New York Times reports that it is the first confirmed case in the capital of Afghanistan in 12 years.
Sometimes it’s too much to bear.
Too much to try to make sense of all this. I thought yesterday was bad as I was reminded that over 200 Nigerian school girls were kidnapped by an extreme Islamic group and we all finally began to pay attention, signing petitions and using hashtags because we felt so helpless and knew we could do nothing else. And then today I’m reminded of polio and its devastating effects.
What do you do when it’s too much to bear? When you work in a grey cubicle and your heart hurts? When you want to point a finger but you know three will point back at you? What do you do when you try to figure out how you can in one breath be raging about Nigerian girls and in the next be excited about a television show that keeps you captivated for two hours? When you realize your own inadequacy in everything but that which you are directly responsible for – and even then, you often feel inadequate?
What do you do when it’s too much to bear? You put your head down and pray so deeply it hurts. And then you go to work doing what you know you’re called to do for the day, because you are not the Saviour, you are only the saved and that by grace alone.
*For more on polio see the CDC website: http://www.cdc.gov/VACCINes/vpd-vac/polio/default.htm
8 thoughts on “On Polio (and When it’s all too Much to Bear)”
Yes, it is too much to bear and I feel so helpless in the hearing of so much hard-to-hear news. We have been away for a week, a joyous week of family celebration of our number 15 grandson’s graduation from University, and he has a job! Then a weekend spent with precious people in the church family we were a part of for 10 years. And no television news and not much time for internet news until we turned it on tonight at home. And so I, too, pray with tears and a breaking heart for these things that indeed break the heart of our loving God, the Shepherd of Love.
I think that it is so important to step back from the news at times, to be reminded that we need to step back and let God be God. Thanks mom.
I finished watching Call the Midwife last weekend and I was horrified by the episode (The Christmas special maybe?) when polio was making its horrible way through the East End. More horrifying is the way both tuberculosis and polio are making a huge comeback in this day of modern medicines that can prevent and cure both. The losses will be devastating. It is indeed, sometimes, to much to bear.
too much to bear!
I know – so preventable which is where the despair feels like it could set in. Thanks for caring – that is one of the ways I am convinced that we do bear it. When we walk beside each other, reminding each other that this life of faith matters.
Savior like a shepherd lead us / much we need Thy tender care …
Love this. And we need his tender care so much.