March 29, 2014 9:03:53 pm
An anti-polio drive will be launched by health workers on Sunday to vaccinate nearly 7,50,000 children in Pakistan’s restive northwest under heavy security to guard against any attack by militants who regard the practice anti-Islamic.
The ninth phase of the drive will be limited to Peshawar district and areas in its outskirts. Due to frequent attacks by militants against polio drives, the campaign is being held under a programme named ‘Sehat Ka Insaf’.
Under the programme, instead of running polio-specific drive, health workers will target all nine vaccine-preventable diseases, including polio. Tomorrow’s campaign will target nearly 7,50,000 children, media reports said.
In 2005, Swat-based cleric Maulana Fazlullah, who is now Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief, started delivering messages on radio telling people that vaccine was ‘haram’ (forbidden) in Islam and those using it were infidels.
He also said that it was a ploy by the Western countries to render the recipients sterile and impotent. According to local media reports, over 32 people had been killed nationwide in attacks on polio workers since December 2012 and majority of these victims were from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The World Health Organisation has warned that Peshawar is the world’s “largest reservoir” of polio.
The campaign is a move by the provincial government to eradicate polio in Pakistan, which along with Nigeria and Afghanistan, are the only countries where the disease remains endemic.
Pakistan recorded 92 cases in 2013, including 65 in Fata, 10 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, nine in Punjab and six in Sindh.
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