PAKISTAN: Polio “criminal negligence”

Pakistan had looked to be winning its battle against polio until 2007 when 32 new cases were detected. Since then, things have deteriorated, with the president declaring a national emergency in January 2011, and describing the failure to eradicate the disease as “criminal negligence”.

The discovery of the polio virus in water samples obtained from five cities in February is believed to be just one of the reasons why the disease is spreading so rapidly in the country.

Pakistan had more polio infections in 2010 (144 cases confirmed) than any other country. Fifteen new cases have been recorded this year.

Whether or not negligence is involved is debatable. But there are many dimensions to what is a complex problem; lack of access for polio vaccination teams to certain areas of the country due to the activities of armed militant groups is one key factor.

According to media reports earlier this year, a worker for Pakistan’s Expanded Programme for Immunization (EPI) was kidnapped and later killed in the North Waziristan tribal agency on the Pakistan-Afghan border.

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