Polio has long plagued Pakistan, as we are one of three countries where polio is still rampant. Unfortunately, no government has tried to build public support for polio vaccinations and instead they have allowed conspiracy theories and wrongly held notions to thrive. This ensures that health care workers and local law enforcement continue to be attacked during polio drives.
Just recently two policemen and a health worker were killed when unidentified gunmen opened fire on them in North Waziristan’s Datakhel tehsil. The attack took place in the Tang Kali locality near the Pak-Afghan border. This is the second such attack since January this year when a policeman escorting a vaccination team was shot dead in Kohat.
As an editorial in Dawn pointed out, “the attack in North Waziristan has come on the heels of an aggressive resurgence of the wild poliovirus in the area. Since only April this year, at least 11 cases of the wild poliovirus have been reported from a cluster of high-risk union councils. These cases had surfaced after a hiatus of 15 months that had given hope that Pakistan might be on the brink of eliminating the crippling disease from its territory. However, as the attack demonstrates, Pakistan still has a long way to go before achieving polio-free status. Moreover, refusals still remain high in North Waziristan. According to reports, silent refusals by parents and fake markings on children’s fingers were one of the key reasons for the abnormally high number of cases.”
The newspaper argued that “aggressive campaigning for the administration of the polio vaccine is no longer enough, and that a wide-ranging, sensitive and strategic effort is required to address the public’s suspicions regarding the government’s anti-polio efforts.”