Thursday November 15, 2018

Pakistan Starts A Nationwide Polio Eradication Drive

Pakistan has to contend with extra suspicion of immunization drives because of the 2011 U.S. special forces raid inside the country that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden

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Polio vaccination must be a right of every child below the age o 6 years.
A boy receives polio vaccine drops during an anti-polio campaign, in a low-income neighbourhood in Karachi, Pakistan. VOA
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Pakistan launched a nationwide polio vaccination drive this week to try to reach 38.7 million children and eradicate the paralyzing and potentially deadly virus in one of the last countries where it is endemic.

Nearly 260,000 volunteers and workers fanned out across Pakistan in an effort to vaccinate every child below the age of five in a week-long campaign, Pakistan’s national coordinator on polio, Mohammad Safdar, said.

“We’re really very close to eradicating the disease,” Safdar told Reuters, appealing to the people to cooperate with the door-to-door effort.

The vaccinators are being provided with a proper kit box for the drive.
A vaccinator with her kit box, waiting for her colleagues at the Polio eradication drive.

Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, that suffers from endemic polio, a childhood virus that can cause paralysis or death.

In 2018, Pakistan has had just one polio case, reported last month, Safdar said. The number of cases has steadily declined since 2014 when 306 were reported. Last year, there were only eight cases, he said.

Efforts to eradicate the disease have been undermined by opposition from the Taliban and other Islamist militants, who say immunization is a foreign ploy to sterilise Muslim children or a cover for Western spies.

Also Read: Pakistan Faces Daunting Uphill Task Of Deradicalizing Educated Youth

In January, gunmen killed a mother-and-daughter vaccination team working in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, where the year’s only case so far was later reporter.

Three years earlier, 15 people were killed in a bombing by the Pakistani Taliban outside a polio vaccination center in Baluchistan.

Polio teams working on Monday were undeterred.

 

Polio drops must be given to each and every child till the required age.
A child being provided with the polio drops during the drive.

“Yes we feel threatened, but our work is like this,” said Bilquis Omar, who has served on a mobile vaccination team for the past six years in the southern port metropolis of Karachi.

“We are working for the children,” she said.

Aziz Memon, who heads the Rotary Club’s PolioPlus program that funds many of the immunization teams, said this year the drive was also making a renewed effort to reach migrants who come back and forth from Afghanistan.

“Mission number one is to get to zero cases and eradicate polio,” Memon said.

A country must have no cases for three consecutive years in order to be considered to have eradicated polio by the World Health Organization.

Pakistan has to contend with extra suspicion of immunization drives because of the 2011 U.S. special forces raid inside the country that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, architect of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States in 2001.

A Pakistani doctor was accused of using a fake vaccination campaign to collect DNA samples that the CIA was believed to have been using to verify bin Laden’s identity. The doctor remains jailed in Pakistan, convicted of waging war against state.  VOA

 

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Vow To Hold Peace Talks With India: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan

Since taking power in August Khan has also sought loans from allies such as China and Saudi Arabia, promised to recover funds stolen by corrupt officials

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Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan prepares to speak at the opening of the Future Investment Initiative conference, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. VOA

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan Tuesday vowed to hold peace talks with arch-rival India following elections in the neighbouring country, after a similar offer from the former cricketer was “rebuffed.”

Khan made the announcement during a speech at a Saudi Arabian investment conference where the newly minted leader launched a charm offensive targeting potential investors as Pakistan seeks to secure funds amid a yawning balance of payment crisis.

“When I won the elections and came to power the first thing I tried to do was extend a hand of peace to India,” Khan told the crowd at the Future Investment Initiative (FII) in Riyadh, saying the overture was later “rebuffed” by Delhi.

“Now what we are hoping is that we wait until the elections then again we will resume our peace talks with India,” he added, referring to upcoming nationwide polls scheduled to take place by mid-May.

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Imran Khan, wikimedia commons

In September India pulled the plug on a rare meeting between its foreign minister and her Pakistani counterpart on the sidelines of a UN summit — a move that was termed “arrogant” by Khan and unleashed a barrage of insults from both sides.

India has long accused Pakistan of backing militants in Kashmir, a Himalayan territory divided between the two countries but claimed in full by both since independence in 1947.

Delhi has stationed about 500,000 soldiers in the portion of Kashmir it controls, where separatist groups demand independence or a merger with Pakistan.

Khan’s call for peace talks comes as his administration is desperately seeking funds from “friendly” countries, including Saudi Arabia, to shore up Pakistan’s deteriorating finances.

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Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, surrounded by host country representatives and other participants, attends an investment conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. VOA

The prime minister’s attendance at the FII comes as leading policy-makers and corporate chiefs shunned the conference in response to the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

During his address at the FII Khan confirmed that Pakistan was also in talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over a new bailout.

Also Read: Pakistan Fears Economic Turmoil, Re-thinks ‘Silk Road’ Project With China

Since taking power in August Khan has also sought loans from allies such as China and Saudi Arabia, promised to recover funds stolen by corrupt officials, and embarked on a series of high-profile populist austerity measures.

But help has been in short supply and economists’ warnings have grown increasingly urgent. (VOA)