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  #1  
Old 11-22-2013, 01:59 PM
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Default Pakistani Taliban blamed for international spread of polio virus

http://centralasiaonline.com/en_GB/a.../19/feature-01

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PESHAWAR – Pakistani militants are being linked to polio's reappearance in Syria.

Syria, which had been polio-free since 1999, has a reported 13 polio cases so far this year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a November 12 statement. Genetic sequencing has shown that the strain of virus found in Deir al-Zor Province, Syria, originated from Pakistan.

The reasons for blaming the militants are two-fold.

First, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has been doing everything it can – from attacking and sometimes killing vaccination team members, or threatening parents and their children – to stop Pakistanis in the tribal region from getting the oral polio vaccine (OPV).

That campaign has left 1m FATA children vulnerable to the disease, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) Polio Officer Dr. Muhammand Shoiab said.

"Taliban militants are responsible for crippling 43 children in FATA in 2013 and are likely responsible for infecting children in foreign countries" now that the strain has gone beyond Pakistan’s borders, Shoiab said, adding that the 43 FATA children could all have been saved had they been vaccinated.

Second, militants who receive training in Pakistan can pick up the virus and carry it wherever they go afterward.

"Militants have a history of transporting virus to foreign countries," Dr. Mushtaq Khan of Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif's Polio Cell said. "The virus often infects children under 5 years old, but it can stay in faecal matter of adults, and then [flies can transmit the virus] to children."

"So the argument by the Syrian government blaming the virus transmission on the militants who allegedly went from Pakistan to fight alongside rebels isn't misplaced," Mushtaq said, referring to comments by Syrian Minister of Social Affairs Kindah al-Shammat, who in media reports has blamed jihadists for bringing the virus into Syria.

TTP allows polio virus to survive
TTP militants have a long history of hampering Pakistan's anti-polio efforts, saying the vaccine is a Western ploy to keep the Muslim population from growing because, the TTP says, the OPV can sterilise those who receive it.

In the past year or so, the Taliban have increased efforts to stop the administration of the vaccine, assassinating 30 health workers and policemen who were guarding vaccination teams in KP and Karachi since December 2012.

The government has urged the Taliban to end their attacks against vaccinators and to stop terrorising the public and endangering children who go unvaccinated, but they have not relented, WHO Emergency Co-ordinator for Polio Eradication in Pakistan Dr. Elias Durry said.

Although the Taliban's opposition to the OPV violates the tenets of Islam, convincing the public to defy the violent militants is difficult, religious scholar Mufti Inamullah Shah told Central Asia Online.

"According to Islamic injunctions, we are bound to safeguard our children against diseases," he said. "All parents want to protect their children against disabilities, but they are afraid of the Taliban."

Because of the TTP's fierce opposition to the OPV, Pakistan is one of only three countries where polio is still endemic. The other two countries are Nigeria (with 51 reported cases this year) and Afghanistan (9). Pakistan has reported 62 cases this year, already surpassing the total for all of 2012.

Ramifications of polio in Syria
With polio's reappearance in Syria, WHO fears the malady could spread across the Middle East. Medics detected a virus, closely linked to the one in Syria, in Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian territories over the past year, it said.

In response, the group has stepped up efforts to respond should the virus appear elsewhere. Vaccination campaigns are planned to cover 22m children in seven countries and territories, AFP reported earlier in November.

Children in impoverished or war-torn areas, such as FATA and Syria, are especially vulnerable to contracting polio, Durry said.

"The role of a few endemic countries in reinfection is dangerous," he said, adding that no country is safe as long as the virus circulates somewhere in the world.

Pakistan is working to contain further spread of the virus.

"We are taking measures to prevent the virus from being transmitted outside our borders," Mushtaq said, noting that the government has instructed provincial governments to set up permanent vaccination counters at airports' international departure lounges to vaccinate everybody against the virus.
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Old 01-14-2014, 10:56 AM
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Default India defeats polio, global eradication efforts advance

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/i...w/28747029.cms

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NEW DELHI: India marked three years since its last reported polio case Monday, meaning it will soon be certified as having defeated the ancient scourge in a huge advance for global eradication efforts.

India's polio programme is one of the country's biggest public health success stories, achieving something once thought impossible thanks to a massive and sustained vaccination programme.

Health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, along with global groups who have been working to eradicate the virus, hailed Monday's anniversary as "a monumental milestone".

"We have completed a full three years without a single polio case and I'm sure that in the future there won't be any polio cases," Azad told reporters in the capital.

Smiling and flashing a V for victory sign, he added: "I think this is great news not just for India but the entire globe."

With the number of cases in decline in Nigeria and Afghanistan, two of only three countries where polio is still endemic, world efforts to consign the crippling virus to history are making steady progress.

"In 2012, there were the fewest numbers of cases in endemic countries as ever before. So far in 2013 (records are still being checked), there were even less," Hamid Jafari, global polio expert at the World Health Organization, told AFP.

"If the current trends of progress continue we could very easily see the end of polio in Afghanistan and Nigeria in 2014."

Despite the success, isolated polio outbreaks in the Horn of Africa and war-wracked Syria emerged as new causes for concern in 2013.

There are also reasons for caution in India, with the virus still considered endemic in neighbouring Pakistan, where vaccinators are being killed by the Taliban which views them as possible spies.

A fake vaccination programme was used by the CIA to provide cover for operatives tracking al-Qaida chief Osama Bin Laden, who was killed in Pakistan by US special forces in May 2011.

Countries are certified by the WHO as being polio-free if they go 12 months without a case, and are then said to have eradicated it after a period of three years without new infections.

India will likely receive this endorsement only in March, which will trigger more exuberant celebrations than on Monday.

The wretched sight of crippled street hawkers or beggars on wheeled trolleys will remain, however, as a legacy of the country's time as an epicentre of the disease.

In the absence of official data, most experts agree there are several million survivors left with withered legs or twisted spines who face discrimination and often live on the margins of society.

The country's success was built on a huge vaccination programme that began in the mid-1990s with the backing of the central government and a coalition of charities, private donors and UN agencies.

An army of more than two million vaccinators, supported by religious and community leaders, canvassed villages, slums, train stations and public gatherings in even the most remote parts of the country.

India reported 150,000 cases of paralytic polio in 1985, and it still accounted for half of all cases globally in 2009, with 741 infections that led to paralysis.

In 2010, the number of victims fell to double figures before the last case on January 13, 2011, when an 18-month-old girl in a Kolkata slum was found to have contracted it.

The girl, Rukshar Khatoon, is now attending school and leads a "normal life", although she still suffers pain in her right leg, doctors and her parents told AFP.

"She can now stand on her feet and walk, but can't run," her father Abdul Saha said. "When her friends play, she remains a spectator."

Saha, a father of four, said he had taken his son to get immunized but not two of his daughters. "It was a grave mistake," he said.

Jafari from the WHO highlighted the immense knock-on benefits for India, which is still afflicted by other preventable diseases, widespread malnutrition and poor sanitation.

"India has now set other important public health goals as a result of the confidence that the country has got from the successful eradication of polio," he said, citing a new measles eradication goal.

Health minister Azad said the next priorities were tackling non-communicable diseases such as a cancer and diabetes but he conceded that the government needed to spend more on improving health services.

"In proportion to the GDP (gross domestic product), unfortunately we don't spend that much money, as much as we should spend," he told AFP.
__________________
The wisdom of the ancients has been taught by the philosophers of Greece, but also by people called Jews in Syria, and by Brahmins in India
-Megasthenes, Greek Ambassador to India, 300 BC

Why is it that on June 4th 1967 I was a Jordanian and overnight I became a Palestinian? - Walid Shoebat, PLO terrorist
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