Tags: taliban | polio | eradicate

Taliban's Opposition Hinders Efforts to Eradicate Polio

Sunday, 01 Dec 2013 09:00 AM

By Elliot Jager

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Polio has been almost completely eradicated around the world, but getting cases down to zero will not be easy partly because of opposition from the Pakistani Taliban to an international vaccination campaign, according to Wired magazine.

There were 223 cases of polio worldwide last year down from 350,000 in 1988. Nigeria leads the world in polio with 122 cases last year. The bulk of cases are concentrated in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In May, the Taliban in Afghanistan ended their attacks against polio vaccination workers and have seen been mostly cooperative in allowing children to be vaccinated.

But Pakistani Taliban leaders – who also control boarder areas in Afghanistan – have killed 22 vaccination workers claiming the anti-polio campaign is an American plot.
And earlier this year 10 polio vaccinators were shot dead in the largely Muslim, northern Nigerian, city of Kano.

The polio virus is spread through saliva, or more commonly, fecal-oral contact, according to Wired.

Most people exposed to the virus suffer no long-lasting damage. In less than 1 percent of infections, the virus causes paralysis, and in 5 to 10 percent of these cases, paralysis affects the breathing muscles and causes death, in the absence of artificial respiration machinery.

There are some 200 carriers for every one person who takes ill, according to Wired.
The polio virus has been found in countries where the disease has been eliminated. A strain of Pakistani polio, for instance, turned up earlier this year in the sewer system of a Bedouin Arab village in Israel.

In many places including Afghanistan, the crews who are the vanguard of the immunization effort are mostly poorly paid women who do the work to help feed their families, according to Wired.

The worldwide anti-polio campaign costs about $1.5 billion a year. If polio can be eradicated like smallpox, say experts, millions of dollars will be saved because there will be no need to vaccinate or treat the disease. Ridding the world of polio could also result in net benefits by 2035 of $40 to $50 billion, according to Wired.

The magazine says that much now depends on whether the Pakistani Taliban will come around to support polio's eradication as have the Taliban in Afghanistan. So far, Pakistani Taliban commanders continue to forbid cooperation with the polio vaccination campaign. In Oct., militants bombed a vaccination center in Peshawar, Pakistan killing two.

Related stories:
Roadside Bomb Kills 2 Polio Workers in NW Pakistan
• Three More Polio Workers Shot in Pakistan; Eight Dead in 48 Hours

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