Can Polio Promote Peace?: How the Eradication of Polio in the Internally Displaced People of Colombia Can Promote Positive Social Change

Degree Name

MA in Conflict Transformation

First Advisor

John Ungerleider


This study was conceptualized during my practicum experience where the first task was to compile a reading list related to forced migration and education in emergencies. During my involvement with this project, it was clear that a variety of sources demonstrated a link between the inability of internally displaced people to access healthcare especially in relation to polio and other routine vaccines. This initial discovery prompted my curiosity as to why this group was being marginalized and what was being done to help them.

Although one typically associates Colombia with drug related violence, polio and access to healthcare should be viewed with equal importance because of their link to other societal institutions such as global citizenship. In addition, the health of a post war society whether viewed metaphorically or physically such as Colombia directly affects its capacity to promote institutions and practices which inspire positive social change and ultimately foment peace. Understanding why and how it is eradicated and how Colombia’s internally displaced population is affected are essential to comprehending this phenomenon. In fact, the study of polio eradication in Colombia is an ideal way to demonstrate the marginalization of displaced people and how the health sector has the potential to perpetuate more peaceful ideals.

To elucidate this idea, a variety of sources are utilized in order to exemplify inadequacies in the current health system, while also demonstrating in which this sector can foment positive social change. The sources and statistics including in this work were taken from journals, government programming, and NGO activities. The author highlights that although the government is not making health an important enough priority, certain work in the field such as the WHO Health as a Bridge for Peace program provide hope that Colombia can strive to provide healthcare for all and in doing so a more peaceful society for its citizens. To supplement the belief that the Colombian health system is not without hope, various important points that were gathered during interviews from informants are highlighted. Although the participants included in this work are employed in a variety of sectors, they are in agreeance that the Colombian health system needs to be reformatted to better serve its citizens.


Peace and Conflict Studies | Public Health

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