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

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs