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Pakistan to include polio drive on agenda of talks with Taliban

Last Updated: Friday, October 25, 2013 - 12:53

Islamabad: The Pakistan government has decided to include polio vaccination on the agenda of dialogue with the Taliban as 90 per cent of the cases this year have been reported from FATA where the militants have banned vaccinations.

Minister of State for Health Regulations Saira Afzal Tarar told this to reporters at a function held here in connection with the World Polio Day Thursday.

Pakistan remains one of the last bastions of the deadly disease in the world besides Afghanistan and Nigeria.

This year alone, 49 fresh polio cases have been recorded in Pakistan, a development that threatens to derail global efforts to root out the disease.

Taliban denounced vaccines as a "Western plot" to sterilise Muslims and imposed bans on inoculation.

On June 19, 2012, the Taliban imposed a ban on anti-polio vaccinations in North Waziristan Agency, stipulating the restriction would last till drone attacks cease.

Since then, no one in the entire agency has been able to get their children vaccinated.

Accusations that immunisation campaigns are cover for spies were given credence after the killing of then al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in 2012 by US special forces.

The US had also used a Pakistani vaccination team to gather intelligence about bin Laden.

Tarar said Taliban should understand the fact that children were suffering because of their ban on the polio drives.

She said so far this year 49 cases of polio had been reported in Pakistan - 36 in FATA, three in Punjab, four in Sindh and six in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

"Polio virus circulation has been restricted to three zones i.e. FATA, Quetta and its neighbouring districts of Qilla Abdullah and Pishin and Karachi`s Gadap Town," The Dawn daily quoted her as saying.

Tarar said one of the biggest obstacles in the eradication of polio was the lack of consistent access to children in the highest risk areas.

She said 260,000 children in North and South Waziristan had not been vaccinated against polio since July 2012.

Since July 2012, at least 24 health workers and policemen protecting them have been killed and 14 others injured in 24 targeted attacks on vaccination team in Pakistan.

First Published: Friday, October 25, 2013 - 12:53
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