The troubles and travails of the people of North Waziristan seem unending. Residing in a stronghold of al Qaeda and the Taliban and frequented by drones, clashes, curfews and tensions are nothing new for residents. However, to add to their torment, the region has just been hit by a measles epidemic, which has already claimed the lives of 12 children and a man in the last three weeks.
According to local doctors, 70 more cases have been confirmed in hospitals. Though the disease can be potentially fatal, it can be prevented through proper vaccinations. Local medical staff at the hospital in Miramshah, the agency headquarters, has said that each year they face merely one or two deaths from measles. This too is considered a high number, given that timely inoculation can prevent unnecessary deaths from measles. The problem in North Waziristan arises from the fact that the highly militarised situation prevents the movement of vaccination teams. In addition, prolonged power outages contribute to difficulties in storing the vaccine, while blockades along roads make it hard to get required medicines into the area. It is of course a terrible tragedy that ordinary people, most of them children, should suffer due to no fault of their own.
The prevalent situation in North Waziristan is an indication of the impact the ongoing conflict is having on the lives of ordinary people. The situation is unacceptable and urgent measures are required to remedy it. In today’s world, no child should die of measles simply because they are unable to obtain the necessary vaccination. The tragedy that is taking place in the north of our country needs to be prevented. The people in the conflict zone need to be treated as ordinary citizens and given the rights which others in the country enjoy. The fact that this is not happening is a direct result of the fighting. They have lived with the consequences of such violence for too long. It is time to bring their suffering to an end.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 16th, 2012.