News / Asia

    UN Warns of Polio Threat as Pakistanis Flee Fighting

    A man, who fled the military offensive against the Pakistani militants in North Waziristan, receives polio vaccination drops upon his arrival in Bannu in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan, June 22, 2014.
    A man, who fled the military offensive against the Pakistani militants in North Waziristan, receives polio vaccination drops upon his arrival in Bannu in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan, June 22, 2014.
    Lisa Schlein
    About 50,000 Pakistanis have crossed into eastern Afghanistan to escape air strikes over the past 10 days and 435,000 have fled within their homeland, which could fuel the spread of polio as many are not vaccinated, U.N. agencies said on Tuesday.

    Pakistan's military gave residents of war-torn North Waziristan until the end of Monday to leave the remote mountainous region ahead of a widely anticipated major ground offensive by the army against Islamist militants.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) is taking advantage of the flight to immunize hundreds of thousands of children and adults against polio, in an effort to prevent the disease from spreading throughout the country. 
     
    The local governing shura, or religious leadership in North Waziristan, has banned polio vaccination for the past two years, demanding a halt to U.S. drone strikes, according to WHO.

    As a consequence, WHO reported the paralytic disease had made a comeback in the region.
     
    Polio outbreak

    WHO polio spokeswoman Sona Bari said there was a huge outbreak of polio in Pakistan during the past year, most of it based in North Waziristan.

    “This out-flux of the population from North Waziristan is our first opportunity to vaccinate these people in two years," Bari said. "Over 70 children have been paralyzed by polio ... in the past year in Pakistan. So, there are now vaccinations going on. Everybody leaving the [region] is being vaccinated. So, that is upward of 390,000 people.” 

    Bari said everyone is being asked if they want the polio vaccination, and she said no one has refused or resisted. 

    While the vaccinations are a positive development, Bari told VOA that there also is a downside: the large number of people leaving North Waziristan poses a big threat to the rest of the Pakistan population.

    The ban on vaccinations in North Waziristan has led to a “huge outbreak of polio,” accounting for 53 of the country's 82 cases recorded so far this year, Bari said.
     
    Last year Pakistan had 93 cases of polio, a crippling disease that invades the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis within hours. There is no cure but it can be prevented by immunization. Children are the most vulnerable.

    "There is a risk that now that the population is moving out (of North Waziristan), the virus will move out," Bari said. 

    Chance to vaccinate

    But the exodus from North Waziristan also represents the first opportunity to vaccinate these people in two years, she said, noting that Afghan authorities and Pakistan authorities in bordering districts were trying to vaccinate those fleeing.
     
    Afghanistan has recorded six cases of polio this year among a total of 103 polio cases in nine countries, according to the WHO which spearheads a global campaign to wipe out the disease.
     
    The number of Pakistanis who have fled to Afghanistan since military operations began on June 15 jumped from 7,000 last Friday to an estimated 50,000, Dan McNorton of the U.N. refugee agency told a briefing. Most are in Khost and Paktika provinces.
     
    “There was a temporary halt to military operations, to air strikes on Sunday. ... So that why we have seen the figures rise particularly quickly in the last couple of days,” McNorton said.
     
    Most of the 435,000 displaced within Pakistan are in Bannu, Lakki Marsat, Dera Ismail Khan and Tank in Kyber Pakhtunkhwa province, but some arrived in Punjab and Balochistan, he said.
     
    Lisa Schlein contributed to this report from Geneva. Some information for this report provided by Reuters.

    You May Like

    Wife of IS Leader Charged in Death of US Hostage

    Suspect allegedly admitted to being responsible for American aid worker Kayla Mueller, who officials say was sexually abused and ‘owned’ by one IS member

    Year of the Monkey Could Prove Economic Balancing Act for China

    China is up against a tricky situation on the financial front, facing the need to fight capital flight while also stopping a further slide of foreign currency reserves

    Runners Attempt 26-mile South Pole Marathon in Sub-Zero Temperatures

    How alluring is running 26.2 miles at 10,000 feet when it’s minus 31 Celsius out?

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.