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

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

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