07/17/2012, 00.00
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Taliban’s no to polio vaccine puts lives of 250 thousand Pakistani children at risk

The government halts campaign in some tribal areas after threats of local Taliban groups in protest against U.S. drones. Pakistan is one of three countries in the world where polio is endemic. In 2011, about 200 children were paralyzed.

Islamabad (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Nearly 250 thousand Pakistani children will not receive the polio vaccine, since the government has stopped distributing the medicine following threats from Taliban groups in the tribal regions of North and South Waziristan. The extremists have blocked the health program in protest against U.S. drone attacks. Launched yesterday throughout the country, the National Immunization Days were the first of their kind for years.

In North Waziristan, at least 160 thousand children were not vaccinated; same fate for over 80 thousand children in South Waziristan. In both cases, the leaders of the Taliban groups have "warned" health departments and local governments not to send any operators to the villages, or their safety would not be guaranteed.

At first, the campaign was to have vaccinated at least one million children in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). However, the number fell to 754 thousand, when some FATA health department officials announced that 300 thousand children had been treated in their prevention programs.

In addition to North and South Waziristan - both regions have reported cases of polio since the beginning of the year - the government has failed to reach the children of the Khyber tribal regions of Orakzai, Kurram, Mohmand and Bajaur, because of the lack of security . Of the 23 cases of polio reported throughout the Pakistan in 2012, nine were in Khyber.

Pakistan is one of three countries in the world - along with Nigeria and Afghanistan - where polio is endemic. In 2011, nearly 200 children were paralyzed: according to the Lancet medical journal it is the worst record in 10 years.


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Muslim ulema: Polio vaccination is permitted under Islam
Islamabad, anti-polio campaign for 40 million children
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Pakistan, polio eradication: hundreds of parents arrested for refusing to vaccinate children
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Taliban lifts ban on polio vaccinations. WHO: Positive news
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