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

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings More

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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid