Polio Cases Surge in Pakistan and Afghanistan

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False rumors that children are fainting or dying have led parents to turn away vaccinators, threatening the campaign to eradicate the disease.

, a current affairs magazine focused on Asia.
Earlier this year, Pakistan announced that it
in order to make the campaigns faster and less intrusive. Teams would try a friendlier approach and gather less data on the families they visited, the prime minister’s office said.
But false rumors spread on social media saying the vaccine had
— or even that it had killed dozens of children — and many families locked their doors to vaccinators or hid their children.
Image
In March, a health worker administered polio vaccine drops to a child during a campaign in Lahore, Pakistan.
Credit
Arif Ali/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The issue has split families; The Times of London recently described a Pakistani man returning from work and
divorcing his wife on the spot
after finding their children’s fingers marked with the indelible ink used by polio vaccinators.

Islamic law allows a man to end a marriage by merely saying “I divorce you” three times; he threw his wife and children out of the house.
As in other countries, like Italy, vaccines have become politicized, with opposition parties spreading anti-vaccine rumors.
Babar bin Atta, the prime minister’s special assistant for polio eradication, said in a letter to the Dawn newspaper that population movements and increasing numbers of refusals were hurting the effort.
The country, he said, would try to fix continuing problems with routine immunization, safe water and sanitation, and the high incidence of malnutrition.
Eradicating polio from Pakistan “may take longer than we hoped for,” he said.
The virus is threatening to spread to other countries. In May,
for the strain of virus circulating in Pakistan; Iran had its last case of polio paralysis in 2001.
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