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Alarming situation... By Masood

20 January, 2014

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) endemic with the polio virus. This is an emergency situation, requiring unprecedented actions, and not mere rhetoric to combat the menace, which is almost eradicated the world over except in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

We all know the real issue. The Taliban and their ideological supporters have convinced people in that part of the country that polio vaccine is a western ploy to sterilize Muslims so that their population decreases against the non-believers. Still, these groups have been ready to relinquish their drive against polio if certain conditions, though contradictory in nature, are met, such as the stopping of drone strikes, punishing Dr Shakil Afridi for helping the US to eliminate Obama bin Laden, so on and so forth. Health workers have been repeatedly attacked in Peshawar and other cities of KP, the tribal belt and in a few localities of Karachi where Pashtuns and Afghan refugees live.

I believe it is time for the federal and provincial governments to put their foot down and take the bull by its horns. This is a serious matter, not only concerning the domestic health environment but the wellbeing of people globally. The indifference will eventually lead the country to international isolation, as is already predicted. According to the latest finding, KP's poor sanitation conditions are adding to the danger posed by polio. Sewerage is found breeding polio viruses. Therefore the effort in hand is complicated. At the one end we have to vaccinate the children and on the other clean up the places causing the disease.

Bangladesh used its religious leaders to convince the general public about the importance of vaccination. Regrettably, our religious scholars have not been that helpful. The Taliban and their supporters need to understand that if the west wanted to sterilise Muslims, there were a thousand other ways to do it. What about the edibles imported from the west? Could not they be tampered with? And why would it only be Pakistan's Muslims? What is so special about them that only they should be eliminated and not the others?

Masood Khan
Jubail, Saudi Arabia

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