Authorities will try to persuade militants in North Waziristan tribal agency to lift a ban on anti-polio vaccination teams imposed in protest against US drone strikes, officials said on Wednesday.
Local warlord Hafiz Gul Bahadur on Saturday banned the anti-polio campaign in North Waziristan. He added that the ban would remain until the US stops drone attacks in the tribal region.
“We have requested the governor of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to direct the political agent (administrator) of North Waziristan to open a dialogue with this group,” a senior government official told AFP.
The official said vaccinating all children in the tribal areas was a top priority in the country’s polio eradication programme.
“The federal government has told the governor to use all available means to ensure that the polio campaigns in the tribal area are not disrupted for the sake of tribal children in particular and Pakistan in general,” the official said.
A senior health official said authorities were concerned about the safety of vaccination teams in North Waziristan.
“With a vaccination campaign coming up this week, we are concerned for over 161,000 children under five in the area who require the polio vaccination, many of whom have never been vaccinated even once against this crippling disease,” he said.
“We are also very concerned for the safety of front line polio workers who, despite great personal risk, work to ensure every child is vaccinated.”
Officials said the polio vaccination programme had made headway this year in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 21st, 2012.
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