IT is frustrating enough that Pakistan remains one of only three countries — the others being Afghanistan and Nigeria — that have failed to eradicate polio. Where it once seemed that the dreaded virus could be brought under control, several factors have led to a resurgence. One is the crisis of the millions of people displaced internally by conflict or natural disasters, which resulted in the virus being reintroduced in what were earlier polio-free areas. Another has been the propaganda against polio drops spread in the north-west by conservative and extremist elements. Pakistan’s polio eradication campaign has always had to operate in a hostile environment. Even so, the turn the situation has taken in recent weeks is unprecedented. What was earlier resistance seems to be in danger of turning into a sustained campaign involving life-threatening violence. It was bad enough that the Taliban announced a ban on immunisations in Waziristan. But it’s nearly calamitous that a grand jirga of tribal elders, tasked by the government to persuade the extremists to allow vaccinations, said that there would be no polio immunisation until the drone attacks ceased.

Friday’s killing in Karachi’s Sohrab Goth of a doctor associated with the World Health Organisation’s anti-polio campaign adds to that worrying trend. Just a few days ago, on July 17, another WHO doctor associated with immunisations was wounded in a gun attack in the same area. It can be speculated that Fata’s politics are having a spill-over effect in Karachi, given that these attacks took place in an area that has received many of the people displaced from the tribal areas. But there have been other instances as well: WHO polio workers were beaten and fired upon in Islamabad and Jacobabad respectively. Unless by a miracle better sense prevails in obscurantist quarters, the situation looks set to get worse, leaving child health hostage to a virulent cross-section of politics and militancy.

More From This Section

Militant groups in Punjab

THE Punjab government, in response to a report in this newspaper, has furnished statistics pertaining to the last ...

Railways: debatable priorities

IT appears the stage is being set for another wonder. Pakistan Railways has recently issued an advertisement...

Surge in Karachi violence

IN the midst of a spate of sectarian killings in Karachi and with tortured bodies turning up in and around the...

Autonomy for State Bank

THE IMF doesn’t seem happy with the quantum of independence the government plans to give the State Bank of ...

Comments are closed.

Comments (1)

July 28, 2012 9:05 am
The moment one sees a child with polio one is disgusted by the irresponsibility of ones parents. At the end of the day they are to be blamed.
Explore: Indian elections 2014
Explore: Indian elections 2014
How much do you know about Indian Elections?
How much do you know about Indian Elections?
Front Page