POLIO OUTBREAK throws spotlight on failures in Papua New Guinea : Polio was vanquished by Papua New Guinea 18 years ago.

Now, as world leaders gather in the  Pacific nation  for the  Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, Polio has returned on top of raging drug-resistant epidemics of tuberculosis, malaria and H.I.V and deadly flash points like whooping cough and measles.

All over the country, there are symptoms of a profound public health emergency; young and old are getting sick and dying unnecessarily, while the facilities lack basic medicines and equipment.

Doctors and experts say the unfolding crisis is the realization of their worst fears after years of deterioration and neglect.

''We we're expecting something like this,'' Dr. Anup Gurung, a public health specialist with the World Health Organization, said the polio outbreak at the news conference in the capital, Port Moresby, in September.

He pointed to the erosion of  vaccination rates, which are down to 30 percent in some parts of the country. ''It's like someone lit a paper castle where everything is on fire,'' he said.

Officials in Papua New Guinea hope that hosting the APEC meeting in Port Moresby will elevate the country's international profile, but the health crisis has become an embarrassment for a nation with abundance of gold, copper, silver, oil and gas.

Public frustration with spending on the meeting has already led to two national strikes. The collapse of health services has been the focus of protests.

The return of polio is a clear indicator of the failures, with Papua New Guinea accounting for  21  of  109 cases  found globally this year.

The Papua New Guinea  outbreak is  vaccine-derived, which means that weakened live virus excreted by vaccinated children has mutated and escaped into the rapidly increasing unprotected population.

Dr. Gurung blamed ''the steady breakdown of the health system'' for the country's polio emergency.

Locals and international experts have point to three interlinked causes of the country's health crisis; the collapse of the medical supply chain; changing relations with the country's biggest donor, Australia and rampant corruption.

The Honor and Serving of the latest Global Operational Research on World's Health and Crisis continues.

The World Students Society thanks author and researcher Jo Chandler.


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