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Home > General > Pakistan: War against polio - Editorial, Daily Times

Pakistan: War against polio - Editorial, Daily Times

22 May 2015

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Daily Times, May 21, 2015

During a three-day anti-polio drive in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a vaccination team was attacked yet again by a gunman in the Tambulak area of Mardan district. The assailant was killed by one of the policemen provided to the health team for their security but another policeman was shot and injured in the process. This incident shows that the terrorist presence in the north is still a threat, despite the army’s repeated claims that their extensive operations against militants have been successful so far and are nearing completion. It also shows that the extremists’ movement against polio vaccinations has still not been thwarted. The fact that the attack was fended off provides some hope that the struggle to keep the anti-polio drive going is gaining some ground and that the government is beginning to pay attention to the security concerns of health workers, several of whom have been killed in the line of duty, charged with the vital task of administering the polio vaccine to communities at risk. While the state’s commitment to fighting polio is encouraging, it is not enough to just initiate vaccination drives and there has to be a campaign to spread awareness about polio.

Aside from the attacking and killing of vaccinators, the extremist propaganda that the polio vaccine is a western conspiracy against the Muslim world that will render those who are vaccinated infertile is preventing some parents from allowing their children to be vaccinated. This narrative has taken hold in certain communities because there is not a strong enough counter-narrative to educate the people about the fact that the polio vaccine saves lives and does not have adverse effects on the health of the recipients. The prevalence of illiteracy in the impoverished and underdeveloped areas of Pakistan, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, which are the most susceptible to polio because of inadequate healthcare, makes local residents all the more vulnerable to this propaganda. The fact that this ignorant theory was able to create such a strong anti-vaccination mindset in several communities also reflects how the inadequacies of Pakistan’s public education system are having serious repercussions for the wellbeing of the people. Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world where new cases of polio still arise. Twenty-three new cases have been recorded this year alone and there are probably many other carriers who have not been discovered. Since the majority of those infected with polio are asymptomatic, the virus can be transmitted to and possibly cripple those not vaccinated against polio without being detected. The government and people from all walks of life must do their part in the war against polio. It is time for Pakistan to take a firm stand against this debilitating disease and all those who wish to derail the efforts to eradicate it. *

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See related news reports:

Quetta anti-polio drive suspended due to lack of security by Syed Ali Shah

Female polio worker attacked in Balochistan

See earlier content on sacw.net:

Pakistan: Speak up for the health workers
by Razeshta Sethna,
http://www.sacw.net/article8158.html

Pakistan Must Fight Those Who Threaten and Kill Health Workers Providing Medication Against Polio - Select Editorials, 12 January 2014
http://www.sacw.net/article7268.html