News / Asia

Ideology, Violence Prevent Polio Eradication in Pakistan

Ideology, Violence Prevent Polio Eradication in Pakistani
X
October 23, 2013 2:25 PM
Pakistan is one of three countries left in the world where polio remains endemic, the other two being neighboring Afghanistan, and Nigeria. Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad that with the help of the international community, the number of polio cases in Pakistan has dropped from 25,000 16 years ago, to just over 40 cases this year. But a Taliban ban on vaccinations and attacks on health workers mean that the highly infectious disease continues to spread.
Sharon Behn
Pakistan is one of three countries left in the world where polio remains endemic, the other two being neighboring Afghanistan, and Nigeria. In Islamabad, with the help of the international community, the number of polio cases in Pakistan has dropped from 25,000 16 years ago, to just over 40 cases this year. But a Taliban ban on vaccinations and attacks on health workers mean that the highly infectious disease continues to spread.
 
Polio in Pakistan: Infected DistrictsPolio in Pakistan: Infected Districts
x
Polio in Pakistan: Infected Districts
Polio in Pakistan: Infected Districts
Crippled by polio when he was just six months old, Hasmatullah Niazi does not blame his mother. She was just 16 when he was born and did not know about the virus.
 
Polio Cases in PakistanPolio Cases in Pakistan
x
Polio Cases in Pakistan
Polio Cases in Pakistan
Now, health teams go door to door to educate the public and try to vaccinate all children against the crippling virus.
 
But Taliban attacks, stretching from Peshawar in the north to Karachi in the south, have killed dozens of health workers and their police escorts.
 
As a result, some 260,000 children are still not vaccinated and the virus is spreading once again. Per Engebak, Polio Team Leader for UNICEF in Pakistan, said the security issue is preventing eradication. “If you have pockets in the country where you have the so-called reservoirs of the polio virus where they are in circulation in the sewage water or in the environment, these are transmission sites - into other parts of the country, and if you have contact, you will have transmission,” he noted.
 
Polio facts:

  • Mainly affects children under 5 years old
  • One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis
  • Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan are the only countries that are polio-endemic
  • There is no cure for polio; it can be prevented by vaccination

Source: WHO
For polio victim Niazi, the extremists' stance against vaccinations is tragic.
 
“I think they are committing a crime, they are committing injustice to their children," accused Niazi, "God forbid if they are victim of polio, their own life will be like in hell, the life of the kids must be, but their own life."
 
Taliban militants say immunizations are part of a Western anti-Muslim plot. The government is working with community and religious leaders to fight back against that belief.
 
​Altaf Bosun of the Prime Minister’s polio eradication unit said the lack of accessibility into what he calls “problematic” areas has led to fresh outbreaks. “There is one choice - now I think there is no choice: polio eradication in Pakistan is must now," he said. "If anybody is deliberately sabotaging this one, then he or she is the enemy of the country, I can say this straightforward. We must be one against the polio eradication.”
 
For Niazi, whose muscles are getting weaker every day, it seems so obvious: if there is a remedy to the disease, use it.

You May Like

Video Video Claims to Show Shi'ite Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planeti
X
George Putic
March 04, 2015 8:51 PM
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More