Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Massimo Berutti: Afghan Vaccination

Photo © Massimo Berutti-All Rights Reserved

The Wall Street Photo Journal has featured a photojournalistic gem on its Photo Journal titled Vaccination Diplomacy of black & white photographs by Massimo Berutti.

In my view, it's a singular gem because it's not an Afghanistan reportage of foaming-at-the-mouth wild-eyed hirsute mujahideen aka jihadists aka Taliban (or whatever the mainstream media's stereotype flavor of the day is), isn't about a bloody military offensive or counter-offensive, and isn't about showing dead and maimed people we don't identify with and frequently demonize. No, it's about how the Taliban, Karzai's central government (corrupt as it it may be), Unicef and the World Health Organization are partnering in trying to eradicate polio through a wide ranging campaign.

This uneasy arrangement recognizes the Taliban stranglehold over large areas of Afghanistan, and the anti-polio campaigners are only welcomed in the villages if and when they show a letter signed by Mullah Mohammad Omar, the leader of the Taliban, which requests the people to cooperate. It seems that Mullah Omar promptly issues a new letter for every vaccination round, and the World Health Organization staff print thousands of copies, distributing them to the anti-polio volunteers.

So the power of reason and dialogue works, and the trite cliche of winning hearts and minds is effective after all!