News / Middle East

    Peshawar World's 'Largest Reservoir' of Polio Virus

    FILE - a Pakistani medic gives a polio vaccine to a child in Peshawar, Pakistan.
    FILE - a Pakistani medic gives a polio vaccine to a child in Peshawar, Pakistan.
    Ayaz Gul
    The World Health Organization has declared Pakistan’s restive city of  Peshawar the world’s “largest reservoir” of endemic poliovirus.  The WHO officials fear Pakistanis could face tough international travel restrictions and visa policies unless transmission of the crippling disease is interrupted through urgent steps.
     
    Researchers at WHO have determined that almost every polio case surfacing in the country during 2013 could be linked genetically to the strains of the virus prevalent in Peshawar.
     
    They added that all the samples collected from various locations of the northwestern city have shown presence of the highly contagious wild poliovirus strain.  
     
    WHO’s emergency coordinator for polio eradication in Pakistan, Elias Durry, said local authorities need to take urgent action to strengthen vaccination campaigns to reverse the disturbing trend. He says the situation in Peshawar not only threatens gains the country has made against the crippling disease over the years, but has the potential to undermine global eradication efforts.  
     
    “Unless the polio eradication program in Pakistan is able to curtail the transmission in Peshawar, the expansion of the viruses to other places will not stop. So, it is critical that Peshawar, the way it is behaving now, really be able to find ways of interrupting these transmissions that have been consistent throughout the years,” said Durry.
     
    Durry cited a rise in deadly attacks on polio vaccinators in and around Peshawar and elsewhere in the country for undermining the quality and coverage of recent national anti-polio campaigns.  “The performance of Pakistan in the last few years was really on the right track until the threats on the vaccinators showed up,” he stated.
     
    Islamist Taliban militants have frequently attacked polio workers in the country, accusing them of being American spies or part of a plot to sterilize Muslims.

    However, most of the violence has taken place in Peshawar because the city borders Pakistan’s volatile tribal districts, where extremist groups have their bases and where the polio outbreak was explosive last year.
     
    Durry did not rule out the possibility of Pakistanis being subjected to travel and visa restrictions if there is no rapid improvement in the polio-related situation.  “I think this is a viable worry that one has to think about,” he said.
     
    In neighboring India, no polio case has surfaced for a third consecutive year.  Starting next month, all visitors to India from Pakistan will be required to show a record of their polio vaccination.
     
    The WHO study has found that 90 percent of the polio cases in Pakistan last year were traced back to strains in Peshawar. It says that 12 of the total 13 polio cases in neighboring Afghanistan were also linked to the city, which is the capital of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
     
    Speaking to reporters in Islamabad Friday, Imran Khan, the leader of the political party ruling the province, acknowledged the polio crisis facing the region and promised to intensify eradication efforts. But he blamed the United States for partly damaging the immunization efforts in Pakistan.
     
    Khan said that the use of health officials like Shakeel Afridi by the American CIA to gather intelligence on militants has angered people in the province, which has resulted in violent attacks on vaccinators.
     
    Pakistani medical doctor Afridi ran a fake vaccination campaign that is believed to have helped the United States locate and eliminate terror mastermind Osama bin Laden. The doctor has been sentenced to 33 years in jail -- a move that has caused frictions in Islamabad’s ties with Washington.
     
    Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan are the only three nations where polio remains endemic. However, WHO officials say that Pakistan was the only country in 2013 that experienced a rise in polio victims.

    You May Like

    Video Somali, AU Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    Somalia’s Western backers frustrated over country’s slow progress in establishing its armed forces to bring security after 25 years of chaos

    Israel Makes Push for Gaza Strip Recovery

    After years of economic blockade and attempts to disable Hamas, Israeli leaders eventually realized that Hamas’ downfall could lead to chaos or the rise of a more radical Jihadist group

    Slump in Chinese Tourists Hitting Hong Kong Retail

    Mainland Chinese account for up to three-quarters of visitors to Hong Kong, but that number is falling, and shopping centers are struggling to 'shift gears' and maintain sales

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shababi
    X
    Henry Ridgwell
    April 28, 2016 4:20 PM
    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Town Receives Refugees but Lacks Resources

    A wave of refugees is pouring into the Kurdish town of Afrin in northern Syria as a result of fighting between rebel forces and Islamic State militants. VOA’s Amina Misto went to the town and reports local authorities are finding it difficult to cope with this influx of internally displaced people. Bronwyn Benito narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Build Human Tissue on Animal Matrix

    The question has always been, if a gecko can grow back its tail, why can't we regenerate our lost body parts? Well, maybe we can, someday. Scientists are moving towards the ability to rebuild fully functioning organs, and have made significant progress replacing muscles and other tissue.
    Video

    Video Containing Chernobyl Radiation Continues 30 Years After Explosion

    April 26 marks the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Hundreds were killed following the explosion and it's estimated that thousands more have died from cancers caused by the radiation. Henry Ridgwell traveled to Chernobyl and reports for VOA on the continuing efforts to decommission the site -- and on the fledgling plans for a new future in the vast exclusion zone.
    Video

    Video Frustration Builds Among Refugees Trapped at Macedonian Border

    On the Greek border with Macedonia, 12,000 refugees continue to wait. Since the route to the rest of Europe was closed last month, the makeshift camp at Idomeni has seen protests and tear gas. But while those here wait, their frustration grows — as do reports of people attempting to find new ways of continuing their journey. John Owens reports from Idomeni.
    Video

    Video Researchers: Bees Help Kenyan Farmers Fend Off Elephants

    Elephant crop-raiding continues to be a major source of human-wildlife conflict in Kenya, so one elephant researcher is helping to alleviate the problem near Tsavo East National Park with beehive fences, which use elephants’ natural aversion to bees to deter them from farms. VOA’s Jill Craig visited the area ahead of this month's Giants Club Summit, which will bring together dignitaries at Mount Kenya to find solutions to combat poaching, the No. 1 threat to elephants.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora