Cell Phones Help Fight Polio in Pakistan

Talk about your unintended consequences in the midst of fighting the Taliban in Pakistan.   When displaced residents from Northern Waziristan were given free SIM cards for their mobile phones when they registered at refugee camps in other parts of the country, they did not realize that these cards would be one of the most powerful technologies in helping to eradicate polio in their country.  When more than 100,000 families were evacuated from the area, health officials used the SIM cards to track them as they resettled in other parts of Pakistan.

Their locations were mapped in new polio-eradication command centers located throughout the country.  When clusters of residents resettled from North Waziristan were identified, teams were sent out to administer the vaccine.  These same teams unfortunately were not welcome in North Waziristan when the families resided there.  In the course of one year, the new cases of polio were reduced from 240 to 40 in 2015.  

So these little SIM cards can not be credited with saving lives in some of the most remote parts of the world.  These cards may not represent the most “cutting edge” technology in the struggle to save lives.  In Pakistan they have now reached out to roughly a half million children who were out of reach two years ago.  Just to think, cell phones can help fight polio!

Ray Myers

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