UN polio suspension hits 22,000 children in Karachi

Published: August 2, 2012

KARACHI: Around 22,000 children are at risk in Karachi after the World Health Organization suspended polio vaccinations over a spate of bloody shootings, a UN official warned Thursday.

WHO, a partner in government efforts to eradicate the disease, suspended activities in parts of Karachi last month and has not yet been approved to take part in the next campaign due in September.

On July 17, a UN doctor from Ghana working on polio eradication and his driver were shot in Gadap town and three days later a local community worker who was part of the same campaign was shot dead in the same area.

“We had a successful campaign in Karachi until those attacks,” said Elias Durry, senior WHO coordinator for polio vaccination in southern Sindh province.

The campaign targeted 2.2 million children in Karachi, but 22,000 children in Gadap town were not administered polio drops because of security fears, he added.

“We fear the children of Gadap could be in danger of polio if we cannot go to them during our next campaign in September,” Durry said.

Maryam Yunus, WHO spokeswoman in Pakistan, said activities would remain suspended in the area until police gave the go-ahead.

Police said they were still investigating the July shootings.

“We are investigating the incidents and trying to ensure fail-safe security for health workers in the future,” said Mohammad Sultan, a local police official.

Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are the only three countries where polio remains endemic.

But Mazhar Nisar, health education advisor at the prime minister’s polio monitoring cell, told AFP that the number of cases was in decline.

“Pakistan is no longer the country with the highest number of polio cases. It was for the past two years consecutively. Now Nigeria is the country with the highest number of polio cases,” he said.

He said that 27 polio cases had been reported so far this year, compared to 71 for the same period last year and 198 for the whole of 2011.

“But there is no reason for complacency and we have to work harder to achieve the goal of a polio-free Pakistan,” he said.

In Pakistan’s northwestern tribal areas, health officials said 240,000 children were also at risk after warlord Hafiz Gul Bahadur and the Pakistani Taliban banned vaccinations in protest at US drone strikes.

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Reader Comments (8)

  • Aug 2, 2012 - 4:59PM

    Very sad, using humanbeing as a shelter, [In Pakistan’s northwestern tribal areas, health officials said 240,000 children were also at risk after warlord Hafiz Gul Bahadur and the Pakistani Taliban banned vaccinations in protest at US drone strikes.]


  • Aryabhat
    Aug 2, 2012 - 5:20PM

    This is sad. Perhaps Pakistan does not need outside world to destroy it! It is fully capable of doing that to itself!

    Poor kids! Whats their fault!


  • vasan
    Aug 2, 2012 - 5:35PM

    Not surprised that Pakistanis have used human beings as shelters. After all they always have a pointed gun to solve the kashmir problem, pointing to their own head ofcourse.


  • Selvam
    Aug 2, 2012 - 6:48PM

    Is Pakistan also becoming an export hub of polio? Which countries want this import?


  • Ali
    Aug 2, 2012 - 7:29PM

    Thank you CIA. Thank you Dr. Afridi.


  • gp65
    Aug 2, 2012 - 8:39PM

    @Ali: “Thank you CIA. Thank you Dr. Afridi”
    Dr. Afridi is a convenient excuse. Only 3 countries of the world had polio in 2011 and Pakistan was one of those 3. What prevented eradication prior to the Afridi incident.

    The truth is that mullahs had spreaddeliberate misinformation for almost a decade that polio drops impact fertility adversely. This impacted olio programs in Pakistan, Nigeria, afghanistan and india – all of whom have very large Muslim populations. In India, the government had to co-opt prayer leaders within India and also Muslim lady health workers to overcome this misapprehension.

    instead of blaming gaps in your healthcare system and fixing them, you are just trying to latch on to the latest available excuse instread of answering why it was not eradicated tus far. Does this help your kids?


  • Mohammad Ali Siddiqui
    Aug 2, 2012 - 10:58PM

    Every child in Pakistan MUST get the polio vaccine, no matter where they are.


  • Cautious
    Aug 2, 2012 - 11:44PM

    The cost of one of your high tech military weapons should provide sufficient capital to fund polio vaccinations – and maybe a few hospitals as well. Simple matter of what you think is more important – but the WHO shouldn’t be providing any service to countries that have money to spend on nukes.


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