How a Ban on Polio Vaccination in Parts of Pakistan Puts the Entire World at Risk
When thousands of public health workers fan out across Pakistan today in the first day of a three-day campaign to vaccinate the country’s children against polio, an estimated 250,000 won’t be receiving the potentially-life saving dose, the social affairs secretary for Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Aftab Akbar Durrani, told VOA’s Urdu Service yesterday. Last month, militant leaders in two of the most lawless districts of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) declared that the vaccination teams would not be allowed to conduct their campaign, declaring that the locally-run program was merely a ruse to allow American spies to penetrate the region. “In the garb of these vaccination campaigns, the U.S. and its allies are running their spying networks in FATA which has brought death and destruction on them in the form of drone strikes,” wrote Mullah Nazir, one of South Waziristan’s major militant commanders in a pamphlet that was widely distributed on June 25. His screed echoed that of a commander in North Waziristan, Hafiz Gul Bahadur, whose own pamphlet from a week earlier was even more direct: “We don’t want benefits from well-wishers who spend billions to save children from polio, which can affect one or two out of hundreds of thousands, while on the other hand the same well-wisher (America) with the help of its slave (Pakistan’s government) kills hundreds of innocent tribesmen including old women and children by unleashing numerous drone attacks.” The ban on vaccinations, he continued, would not be lifted until the drone strikes stop.
Both Nazir and Bahadur reiterated to TIME through a special correspondent in Peshawar yesterday that they would not reconsider the ban on vaccination teams, citing the ongoing drone campaign in the country’s tribal regions.