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May 26, 2014
Naseem Munir prepares breakfast for her husband and three children then prepares for work. She’s a health worker, dispensing important preventative medicine to children in the suburban sprawl of Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city.
It should be routine. It’s not.
Naseem knows when she walks out the door she may never return.
At least forty health workers, most of them poorly paid women, have been shot and killed in the last two years while vaccinating children against polio. Naseem’s been shot at and three of her close team members were killed in January.
Still she perseveres, risking her life to do the vital ground work so that the crippling, even deadly disease polio can be cauterised.
“This is my mission. I see myself as a soldier. I don’t want to see my country paralysed.”NASSEEM MUNIR Vaccinator
Attacks against the polio workers have been orchestrated and directed by the Pakistan Taliban and other extreme Islamist groups who claim the inoculation program is a western plot to undermine the country. The violent campaign has intensified since it emerged that the effort to track and kill Osama Bin Laden was enabled in part by a sham vaccination program run by a Pakistani doctor.
Now many Pakistanis see the vaccinators as spies, and the vaccines as a dangerous plot to contaminate Muslims or make them infertile.
It’s made the task of combating this dangerous disease in a seething, highly populated nation all the more difficult. And for as long as polio remains active in Pakistan (and two other nations Afghanistan and Nigeria) it remains a threat to the rest of the world.
Recent outbreaks in China and the Middle East have been traced back to Pakistan. The World Health Organization has now declared polio as an international health emergency and from June, all Pakistanis traveling overseas will have to prove their vaccinations are up to date or face travel bans.
Foreign Correspondent heads out with vaccinators and into hospital wards where doctors are trying to deal with infant and child polio cases before too much irreversible damage is done.
Wacht Video on http://www.abc.net.au
Post Polio Litaff, Association A.C _APPLAC Mexico
May 25, 2014
RAWALPINDI, PAKISTAN — Pakistan is moving quickly to try to contain the polio virus after the World Health Organization imposed international travel restrictions on anyone coming from the polio endemic country. Health workers in Rawalpindi are working with parents to vaccinate their children.
Pakistan has ordered mandatory polio vaccinations for anyone leaving the country’s tribal northwest where the virus is concentrated.
The World Health Organization has imposed international travel restrictions on anyone leaving Pakistan without proof of vaccination as of June 1.
Nosherwan Khan, who owns a bus depot and belongs to the Pakistan Polio Plus committee, calls the WHO decision a wake-up call.
“They have to do something, Pakistani government has to do something," said Khan. "This travel ban has come as a kind of shock to all Pakistanis, and it opened their eyes up, actually, very much."
The country has the highest number of new polio cases in the world, and Pakistanis such as Sohail Qoreshi, like most people, understand the vaccine's importance.
“Polio is an epidemic in Pakistan and spreading rapidly," said Qoreshi. "Our health workers have worked hard, they’ve gone house to house with the polio drops. Now they are providing the drops at bus stops."
Much of the country has been inoculated, leaving the virus concentrated in Pakistan’s volatile tribal regions, where Taliban militants banned vaccination efforts in 2012, leaving many beyond the reach of health workers.
World Health Organization's Nima Saeed Abid says infections will persist until vaccinations resume.
“There should be a means by all parties in conflict, or all parties who have influence in this area, to sit actually and allow vaccination of these children," said Abid. "So many children have been crippled ... due to a completely avoidable disease. I mean, health is impartial and all stakeholders should understand that."
There is evidence that polio from Pakistan has reached as far as Egypt and Israel. Now everyone here, including adults, must be vaccinated as the global effort to wipe out the disease focuses on the last few places where polio is still spreading.
Post Polio Litaff, Association A.C _APPLAC Mexico
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