In 1988 there were 350,000 cases of polio worldwide. Last year there were 223. But getting all the way to zero will mean spending billions of dollars, penetrating the most remote regions of the globe, and facing down Taliban militants to get to the last unprotected children on Earth.
The world is racing to eliminate the polio virus, which can paralyze its victims. The outcome is by no means certain. A recent outbreak of polio in Syria--where hundreds of thousands of children have not been vaccinated due to the war--has raised fears of a resurgence of the virus in the Middle East. The World Health Organization has announced an emergency campaign to vaccinate 20 million children in the area.
This fall, I traveled to the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, one of the front lines in the battle against polio. My feature story is out in this month's issue of Wired magazine, a special edition guest-edited by Bill Gates. They've published it online here with a lovely and innovative web design, along with the deliriously evocative photography of Anastasia Taylor-Lind.