Polio drive postponed in Pak tribal belt after Taliban threat

A polio immunisation campaign in parts of tribal belt was postponed after Taliban ban, leaving over 3,50,000 children vulnerable to the disease.

Updated: Jul 17, 2012, 08:53 AM IST

Islamabad: Pakistani authorities on Monday postponed a polio immunisation campaign in parts of the restive tribal belt due to a ban imposed by the Taliban, leaving over 3,50,000 children vulnerable to the crippling disease.

The government`s efforts to eradicate polio suffered a setback last month when powerful Taliban factions in North and South Waziristan banned vaccination campaigns till the US halts drone strikes in the tribal belt.

A new nationwide immunisation campaign began on Monday.

Officials said the campaign had been postponed in North and South Waziristan and the Bara area of Khyber Agency, which has witnessed fighting between militants and security forces in recent weeks.

A meeting of tribal elders of North Waziristan to discuss the anti-polio campaign was postponed due to a curfew imposed in the region today.

Authorities had intended to immunise about 2,40,000 children in North and South Waziristan and about 1,20,000 in the Bara region of Khyber Agency.

A total of 34 million children under five years are to be covered by the three-day polio immunisation campaign this week.

The Taliban have claimed that Western powers are running a spy network in the tribal belt in the guise of the polio vaccination campaign.

They cited the case of Shakeel Afridi, the doctor arrested by Pakistani authorities for conducting a fake vaccination campaign to help the CIA track Osama bin Laden before he was killed in Abbottabad last year.

Polio remains endemic only in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria.

Pakistan recorded 198 polio cases last year, up from 144 in 2010.

A total of 22 polio cases were recorded in 13 districts.