This Peace Brief, based on a panel discussion convened by the U.S. Institute of Peace Health and Peacebuilding Working Group on June 29, 2010, was written by Leonard Rubenstein, coordinator of the USIP Working Group and a Senior Scientist at the Center for Public Health and Human Rights at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

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Summary

  • Defying expectations, successful polio vaccination campaigns have taken place in well over two dozen armed conflicts, and continue today. Polio vaccination campaigns amid war have often succeeded in gaining the cooperation of anti-government forces such as Sendero Luminoso in Peru, multiple rebel groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Diplomatic means have also been employed to overcome severe political obstacles to such campaigns, even when the campaigns have become a flashpoint in places of political turmoil.
  • Such campaigns face many challenges because vaccinators need to reach all villages without threats to their own lives or the programs’ implementation. They require security for safe passage for immunizations and sometimes temporary cease-fires.
  • The many successes of vaccination campaigns can be attributed to the programs’ exclusive focus on the immunization needs of children; the use of interlocutors who are credible because they demonstrate neutrality; transparent discussions with opposition groups about the reasons for the campaigns; a role for opposition groups in facilitating the campaigns; limits on the number of days vaccinations take place; and the absence of any strategic or political goals for the effort beyond polio eradication.

About this Brief

This Peace Brief, based on a panel discussion convened by the U.S. Institute of Peace Health and Peacebuilding Working Group on June 29, 2010, was written by Leonard Rubenstein, coordinator of the USIP Working Group and a Senior Scientist at the Center for Public Health and Human Rights at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

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