News / Asia

    WHO Calls Polio's Spread a Global Emergency

    Police stand guard as a polio worker waits to give polio vaccine drops to children at a street in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan, March 30, 2014.
    Police stand guard as a polio worker waits to give polio vaccine drops to children at a street in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan, March 30, 2014.
    Alarmed by polio outbreaks in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, the World Health Organization is calling for a coordinated international response to stop the spread of the crippling disease.

    The agency, citing a public health emergency, on Monday released a set of recommendations. These included travel restrictions for Pakistan, Cameroon and Syria, countries currently exporting the wild virus that causes the infection.

    WHO's assistant director general, Bruce Aylward, said the situation was particularly serious because the new polio infections have occurred between January and April, traditionally the disease's low transmission season.

    The disease usually affects children 5 and younger and is spread by water infected with fecal matter.

    The number of confirmed polio cases reached 68 last month, compared with 24 the previous year, the Associated Press reported.

    A WHO emergency committee said Camaroon, Pakistan and Syria should ensure that all residents and long-term visitors get immunized against polio before traveling abroad. Travelers should carry a certificate or other evidence they've been immunized, the agency advised. 

    Pakistan, which has the world's highest incidence of the disease, is moving quickly to make polio vaccines mandatory for all those planning to travel out of the country, its national minister of health told told VOA.

    “We were already considering, along with our provincial governments, that we should make sure that all Pakistanis, before leaving Pakistan, should have these polio drops," Saira Afzal Tarar said.
     
    Polio also is endemic in Afghanistan and Nigeria. Its re-emergence in countries where it previously had been controlled -- Camaroon, Equitorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Kenya and Somalia -- led the organization to its recommendations.

    Taliban hampered immunizations

    Because of a Taliban ban on vaccinations, and the organization's deadly attacks on anti-polio health teams, national eradication efforts in Pakistan have suffered critical setbacks.

    Tarar said those areas inaccessible to health workers are the main reservoirs of the polio virus. A heavy Taliban presence has all but denied access to the tribal area of North Waziristan.
     
    Pakistan’s prime minister has asked the country’s military to help protect polio vaccination workers in the insurgency-plagued northwest.
     
    Although not legally binding, the WHO recommendations carry a lot of weight, said the organization's acting representative in Pakistan, Nima Saeed Abid.

    WHO expects many of the countries will follow its recommendations, "but it depends on the member state to implement," said Abid. "I do not think member states would ignore these recommendations.”

    The travel measures are expected to remain in place until six months have passed without polio virus exportations.

    VOA's Sharon Behn reported from Islamabad and Lisa Schlein reported from Geneva.

    Sharon Behn

    Sharon Behn is a foreign correspondent working out of Voice of America’s headquarters in Washington D.C  Her current beat focuses on political, security and humanitarian developments in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Follow Sharon on Twitter and on Facebook.

    You May Like

    US Lawmakers Vow to Continue Immigrant Program for Afghan Interpreters

    Congressional inaction threatens funding for effort which began in 2008 and has allowed more than 20,000 interpreters, their family members to immigrate to US

    Leaderless, Rudderless, Britain Drifts

    Experts predicted chaos would follow, if Britain decided to vote for Brexit, and chaos has

    US to Train Cambodian Government on Combating Cybercrime

    Concerns raised over drafting of law, as critics fear cybercrime regulations could be used to restrict freedom of expression and stifle political dissent

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: shaban from: Islamabad
    May 10, 2014 3:48 AM
    I do not believe that vaccination of adults will help in eliminating poliomyelitis virus. Let me explain why: The virus enters through the mouth and multiplies
    in the throat and gastrointestinal tract, then moves
    into the bloodstream and is carried to the central
    nervous system where it replicates and destroys the
    motor neuron cells. Motor neurons control the
    muscles for swallowing, circulation, respiration, and
    the trunk, arms, and legs. Allah made our immune system which protects itself and other cells by producing antibodies that engage the poliovirus, covering them and preventing the virus from
    interacting with another cells. What the vaccine does is to put a polio virus into our body in an in-active state, so that our immune system recognises the virus from an early stage, and can produce the anti-bodies later in our life, if we are attacked with the Virus. An adult is less likely to get infected, but by taking the vaccine he has high risks of getting VAPP, Vaccine associated paralytic polio, and this is common with people with low immune systems. Statistics shows that proper hygiene was responsible for the elimination of the disease and not any vaccine. While I was in Sudan, the govt. there would spend millions of malaria medicine, but would not bother to open drains and make way for rain water. There would be a puddle of water in front of every house. Proper hygiene and mothers milk is the best vaccine against any infection. But we are ruled by business enterprises who want to make a dime even out of our crap.

    by: Saeed Ikramullah from: Rawalpindi, Pakistan
    May 07, 2014 11:39 AM
    The recent travel restrictions/advisory issued by WHO for Pakistanis traveling abroad is absolutely ridiculous and absurd to say the least. WHO claims to be a champion of eradicating diseases worldwide but this time they have played right into the hands of Taliban and their supporters who do not allow immunization of children for polio virus.

    It is a joke with all Pakistanis even adults who have to be orally vaccinated before their travel abroad. Instead of working with the government here to find ways and means to tackle the menace WHO has taken the easy road to impose travel restrictions. The government here must ensure that all travelers be it foreigners officials or otherwise working in Pakistan to go through this humiliation of oral vaccination at the airports including WHO foreign staff working here should they wish to travel abroad so that everyone is on board including our foreigner friends!

    by: Ali from: Pakistan
    May 06, 2014 4:35 AM
    UN did not condemn the CIA from running false health programmes to identify and kill Osama Ben laden and now wonder why no one believes their 'health' programmes to be genuine! pathetic.
    It is the TTP/ Taliban and their supporters who are responsible for this happening...they attack health workers and kill them thinking as CIA agents like Shakeel Afridi who want to kill them by identifying their leaders DNA. The innocent children are paying the price for adventure and heroism of US troops and CIA agents.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Testing Bamboo as Building Materiali
    X
    June 27, 2016 9:06 PM
    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapides’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora