Taliban militants prohibit polio vaccines in Pakistan
Edict could adversely affect as many as 280,000 children
In a decision that makes little or no sense whatsoever, the Taliban leadership of Pakistan has officially forbidden polio vaccines in retaliation for U.S. drone strikes in the region. In other words, the Taliban leadership will adversely punish their own child population with crippling disease and death on account of a U.S.-led military action. The World health Organization says that 280,000 Pakistani children could be affected by the measure.
Pakistan has enjoyed recent success in containing the disease. 'People are being reached; we need to be keeping that momentum up.'
Mazhar Nisar, the health education adviser in the Pakistani prime minister's polio program says that the volunteers "obviously cannot operate," adding that "We're hoping that the campaign will resume in the near future."
Vaccination efforts are continuing apace in Pakistan as 180,000 health workers and volunteers fanned throughout communities trying to immunize 34 million children, under the age of 5.
The ban began in June after a Taliban commander in northwest Pakistan said that all vaccinations "would be banned in North Waziristan until the drones strikes are stopped."
Commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur said that the drone strikes "are worse than polio." Drone strikes are widely unpopular, as the Pakistani government has pressed the U.S. administration to stop the attacks.
Pakistan remains one of the three countries in the world grappling with polio. Pakistan has had 22 reported cases this year. Afghanistan has 11 cases and Nigeria has 54.
The highly contagious disease can cause paralysis, breathing problems, deformities and death. As there is no cure for polio, the focus lies on vaccines to prevent the disease.
The vaccine is usually administered orally, in multiple doses to achieve full immunity. Pakistan's tribal regions are areas where polio is known to remain active.
"In a situation like this, any child who has not been administered for polio vaccine remains at risk," Nisar said.
The WHO, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and Rotary International has a joint polio eradication campaign.
"Our concern is reaching every single child possible," Michael Coleman, a communication specialist for UNICEF and polio says. "Where there are limitations presented, it's a concern."
Pakistan has enjoyed recent success in containing the disease. "People are being reached; we need to be keeping that momentum up."
© 2012, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Taliban, Pakistan, polio vaccine, vaccinations, Nigeria, Afghanistan
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