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 One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Video Scientists Say We Need Softer Robots

Today’s robots are mostly hard, rigid machines, with sharp edges and forceful movements, but researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say they should be softer and therefore safer 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs