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

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid