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I've been following your postings of information on the WHO-Polio campaign, also the various pieces that have been published in the NY Times. Having co-authored a piece on the CSM epidemic in 1996 (The Politics of the 1996 Cerebrospinal Meningitis Epidemic in Nigeria. Africa 68(1):118-134 (co-authored with C.L. Ejembi and H.A. Adamu), 1998 and written another on reproductive rumors (Perceptions of Population Policy, Development, and Family Planning in Northern Nigeria. Studies in Family Planning 27(3):127-136, 1996), I thought the Times might have been interested in my observations. But apparently they have over 1000 submissions a week so they didn't take my offering. I don't know if you'd be interesting in posting my op ed comments (attached) on Hausa-Net but you're welcome to do so if you'd like. All best wishes, Elisha Renne, Assoc Prof, Anthropology and CAAS, U Mich-Ann Arbor WHO's Plans in Northern Nigeria The recent story, "Polio Cases in West Africa May Thwart W.H.O. Plan" [NYTimes, 11 Jan 2004, p. 10], along with two earlier reports [NYTimes, 28 Oct 2003; 9 Dec 2003], suggests that WHO officials in charge of the polio eradication program in Northern Nigeria are surprised and blameless at the negative response to this initiative. However, better communication with local Islamic and political leaders and a cursory look at recent literature on Northern Nigeria might have prevented this situation. In Northern Nigeria, mistrust toward Western-sponsored aid projects is not uncommon, reflecting local resentment toward top-down development approaches that fail to incorporate local input on needs and implementation. Furthermore, mistrust of the motives of Western aid donors may be intensified when a growing sense of disparity of global wealth among nations suggests that the motives for health initiatives may be more a matter of politics and of maintaining the economic status quo than promoting the well-being of third world citizens. The importance of understanding these matters was first made clear to me while conducting a small survey on childbirth in a town in Kaduna State, Northern Nigeria, in late 1994 and early 1995. Soon after interviews began, rumors emerged about the Maggi® (bouillon) cubes that my research assistant and I were giving to women as interview gifts. It was said that they were contaminated with "family planning" medicine and that women should therefore not speak with us. While we soon after replaced the Maggi® cubes with five-naira banknotes, rumors continued to circulate about a wide range of vital commodities including sugar, salt, and kerosene which we were supposedly distributing and which were all, so to speak, impregnated with "family planning" contraceptives. These rumorscouched in terms of Western commodities and family planningappear to have been expressions of uncertainty and of suspicion about my real motives. Despite ostensible generosity, WesternersU.S. government officials, NGO workers, and anthropologists alikemay be perceived as having questionable intentions. These rumors raised the question of why Western commoditiessuch Maggi® bouillon cubes in my own case and immunization vaccines, in the case of the W.H.O.were the symbolic vehicles used to represent collective hostility toward myself as an American and toward what are perceived as Western-based health initiatives more generally. As I later learned, rumors about various Western commoditiesin particular Panadolbeing "contaminated" with family planning medicine had circulated in 1994 in Northern Nigeria. (More recently, in early 2001, a Proctor & Gamble campaign to distribute sample "Always" sanitary napkins to secondary schools girls in the Northern Nigerian city of Maiduguri, was condemned for spreading HIV-AIDs.) At one level, these rumors and responses reflect genuine fear on the part of some about the unknowne.g., about the actual ingredients of foreign substances such as bouillon cubes as well as about the ambiguous intentions of strangers. At another level, these rumors represent a form of resistance to the impositions of powerful Western intruders, be they social science researchers, W.H.O. health workers, or state family planning program officials. While the belief that Maggi® bouillon cubes or polio vaccines could contain contraceptives might seem laughable, the concerns that these rumors represent are quite serious. The reasons for these concerns were made clearer by my discussions with some Northern Nigerian professionals. When asked why the family planning Maggi® rumors developed, several explanations emerged. A medical doctor attributed them to my infraction of local custom, that the idea of giving a "gift" for something freely given, in this case an interview, was considered inappropriate. One Islamic legal scholar suggested that some people believe that Western-sponsored interests (which would include the U.N.) in child health programs derive from Westerners' fear of large Muslim populations, hence the association of contraception being the bases for these programs. Another focused on specific U.S. foreign policies (such as U.S. bombing of Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War), which were perceived as being anti-Muslim. According to these people, rumors about family planning in Western commodities represent an indirect form of opposition to outsider improprieties, to American-sponsored health and family planning programs, and to U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. These rumors of resistance also represent specific domestic politic tensions between Northern and Southern Nigeria, suggested by the image of the late Nigerian dictator, General Sani Abachaa Northerneron the back of the tricycle driven by polio victim Abdullahi Idris [NYTimes, 11 Jan 2004], rather than the current national leader, President Olusegun Obasanjo, a Southerner. That President Obasanjo "has announced that the polio vaccine is safe" could actually discourage some Northern Nigerians from seeking immunization. The polio immunization program in Northern Nigeria might still be implemented if W.H.O. officials sought the advice of sympathetic local traditional rulers and Islamic leaders. Perhaps Middle Eastern UN members could be more actively engaged. In any event, one lesson should be learned from this situation, namely, that politicseither at the local, national, or international levelcannot be divorced from the implementation of health initiatives. Elisha P. Renne, Associate Professor, Center for Afroamerican and African Studies & the Department of Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Wannan wasik'ar i-mel ce daga H-Hausa, inda za'a cigaba da hira game da harshe da al'adu da tarihi da sauran lamura na Hausawa da mak'wabtansu.