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 Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs