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Pakistan has had to stop the polio vaccinations in some zones of the country due to the Taliban opposition. The health workers and volunteers have not been able to immunize children in North and and South Waziristanduring recently. According to World Health Organization, this could affect to around 280,000 children who live in tribal areas that are controlled by the fundamentalist militias.
In order to allow the access to the health personnel, the fundamentalist militia that controls the northwest zone of Pakistan demands that the United States’ stop the drone strikes in the region.
With this decision, the Taliban is impeding 160,000 children from North and South Waziristan to receive the vaccine that they need. Pakistan, which is one of the countries along with Afghanistan, India and Nigeria that still have not eradicated polio, will now have to face a highly contagious disease that can even cause death.
Pakistani authorities are trying to hold an assembly, to convince the Taliban of the need to immunize children, but the clerics and clan chiefs argue that they are not able to overrule the decisions of the insurgents.
Gul Bahadur, one of the leaders of the Taliban guerrillas of Waziristan battling NATO troops in Afghanistan, announced in mid-June that they would not allow access to health personnel until there is an end of the drone attacks, which he described as an evil “worse than polio.” Now the threats have become a reality.
These drone attacks from the United States are operations against suspected hideouts of Taliban and AL-Qaeda in the rugged tribal regions of northwestern Pakistan.
Mazhar Nisar, the health education adviser of the Prime Minister’s polio program, said he hopes the vaccination campaign “will resume in the near future.”
The threats are not just words, but action. A doctor of the UN from Ghana involved in the national campaign against polio was attacked on July 17th by Taliban members. The attack took place in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, and was perpetrated by two armed men aboard a motorcycle. They shot the foreign doctor, Fostan Davis, who was in his vehicle with his driver. They are both out of danger.
This vaccine problem comes in a negative moment for Pakistan. On July 19th, 14 Pakistanis were killed by a roadside mine explosion. That same day there was an earthquake measuring 5.7 on the Richter Scale. However, no loss of life and property has been reported.
Image Courtesy of Canada in Afghanistan / Canada en Afghanistan