Recently, insurgents have kept polio teams out of vulnerable areas. Distrust of all things American and the belief that the polio vaccine was being used to control the population has led to outspokenness against the treatment from some, and outright violence from others. In the latter part of last year alone, there were eight polio workers that were killed due to such rhetoric. However, the latest casualty in this battle is a child less than one year old, who died in a hospital.
The child’s father, Taj Muhammad, said that polio teams had not been to their area in three years due to such activity. The child joins 257 children that have succumbed to the disease in the past two years in Pakistan.
The Pakistani government suspended UN-supported vaccinations following the shooting of two female polio workers on May 28th. Radio Free Europe’s Pashto station Radio Mashaal has nevertheless been working to connect aid workers to the communities that need them. Radio Mashaal’s approach, which includes inviting religious and secular figures of authority such as mullahs and doctors to engage in discussion has, according to one doctor, led to a 50 percent drop in the number of parents who refused to administer polio drops to their children.
Yet, Pakistan—along with Afghanistan and Nigeria—remains one of the few places on the planet where polio remains an epidemic.
– Samantha Mauney