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 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