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

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs