Home Latest News Polio Campaign Launched in North Waziristan

Polio Campaign Launched in North Waziristan

by AFP
File Photo. Farooq Naeem—AFP

File Photo. Farooq Naeem—AFP

Health department chief says campaign will continue until all 39,000 children living in the region have been vaccinated.

Pakistan on Thursday launched a polio vaccination campaign in North Waziristan, where Al Qaeda and Taliban militants have sanctuaries.

The campaign, targeting 39,000 children, was initiated under huge international pressure to vaccinate every child in the country, despite more than two years of a dangerous security situation in the region. The military has been carrying out an offensive against Islamist militant strongholds in the area since June.

“The campaign has been started in the region where military is not fighting against the militants. There is no timeframe for this campaign and it will continue until we vaccinate all 39,000 children,” said Dr. Sadiq Khan, in-charge of the health department in North Waziristan.

Adnan Khan, a government spokesman, said that the authorities had not set a timeframe for the campaign due to the security situation. On Tuesday, a similar campaign was started in the neighboring South Waziristan. A day later, gunmen killed four members of a polio vaccination team in the outskirts of Quetta, the capital of Balochistan.

Pakistan is one of only three countries where polio remains endemic. Attempts to stamp it out have been badly hit by opposition from militants and attacks on immunization teams, which have claimed more than 60 lives in the last two years. The militants have in the past claimed that the polio vaccination is a cover for espionage or a Western conspiracy to sterilize Muslims.

Officials say the number of polio cases recorded in Pakistan has reached 246 for the year—a 14-year high and more than double the total for the whole of 2013. Among the new cases detected, 136 are in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan. The outbreak led the World Health Organization earlier this year to ask Pakistan to impose mandatory vaccinations on travellers leaving the country.

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