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Title: Bin Laden Raid Harms Pakistan Polio Fight
Date: June 7, 2012
Source: CNN

Abstract: Ikra lies on her mother's lap, her eyes stained with tears. She wants to go and play with the other children, but she can't even move, her mother says.

She's just 17 months old, but already Ikra has been paralyzed by polio in one of the three countries in the world where the disease remains endemic.

Last year, 198 cases of polio were reported in Pakistan, a 15-year high, and the largest number of cases recorded anywhere in the world, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), a joint program to eradicate polio led by the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and Rotary International.

Children under the age of five are most vulnerable to the disease, which is spread by a virus and leads to paralysis and, in some cases, death.

Since a global vaccination campaign was launched in 1988, the number of cases worldwide has dropped dramatically, although along with Pakistan, polio is still endemic in Afghanistan and Nigeria, according to the GPEI.

Pakistan is causing particular consternation among health officials who say their efforts to vaccinate more children are being frustrated by the CIA's use of a fake vaccination program last year to gather intelligence on Osama bin Laden.

In a letter to CIA director General David Petraeus in February, InterAction, which represents nearly 200 U.S.- based non-government organizations, expressed "deep concern" about the fake campaign.

"Among other factors, international public health officials point to the distrust of vaccines and immunization campaigns as contributing to the lack of progress in eradicating the disease in Pakistan," it said.

"This distrust is only increasing in light of reports about the CIA campaign," it added.

Bin Laden was killed in a raid by U.S. Navy SEALs in May 2011 at a heavily fortified compound in Abbottabad, in northeastern Pakistan.

Local news reports linked Pakistani doctor Shakeel Afridi to the U.S. intelligence operation, alleging he tried to gain access to bin Laden's compound through the fake vaccination scheme.

Pakistan recently sentenced Afridi to 33 years in jail for providing financial and medical assistance to the now defunct militant group Lashkar-e-Islam.

Officials originally told CNN Afridi was charged with treason for spying for the United States.

"The incident with Dr. Shakeel Afridi definitely impacted not only our polio vaccinations but other vaccination programs as well," said Arshad Ahmad Khan, a doctor at Nowshera health department in the country's northwest.

Alem Zeb said he rejected free polio vaccination drops for his children, aged 7 and two, because they were "poison."

"The polio drops destroy the sperm," he told CNN from his home in Peshawar, in the country's northwest. "It's a campaign by the West to disable Muslim children," he said.

"The U.S. provides funds to destroy Muslims and to make them slaves through such campaigns," he added.

Aid groups have recruited religious leaders to assure anxious parents that the vaccinations are not part of Western plan to sterilize their children.

"We go from door to door in every neighborhood to people who refuse [to vaccinate their children] and for whatever reasons they give, and assure them," said Mohammad Asim Head of the religious school called Idara-e-Taleem-ul-Quran in comments distributed by UNICEF.

"For some, a visit by the Imam is good enough," he added.

At the start of this year, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) launched an Emergency Action Plan with the aim of vaccinating enough children to halt transmission of the disease by the end of this year.

So far their blitz has succeeded in reducing the number of cases so far this year, with only 16 recorded in Pakistan at end of May, compared to 36 during the same period last year, according to a joint statement from aid groups.

However, to stop polio transmission completely, aid groups said at least 95% of all children in Pakistan must be immunized during multiple campaigns throughout the country each year.

Oral drops need to be administered several times to each child before they become fully immunized (CNN, 2012)

Title: CIA Organised Fake Vaccination Drive To Get Osama Bin Laden's Family DNA
Date: July 11, 2012
Source:
Guardian

Abstract: The 
CIA organised a fake vaccination programme in the town where it believed Osama bin Laden was hiding in an elaborate attempt to obtain DNA from the fugitive al-Qaida leader's family, a Guardian investigation has found.

As part of extensive preparations for the raid that killed Bin Laden in May, CIA agents recruited a senior Pakistani doctor to organise the vaccine drive in Abbottabad, even starting the "project" in a poorer part of town to make it look more authentic, according to Pakistani and US officials and local residents.

The doctor, Shakil Afridi, has since been arrested by the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) for co-operating with American intelligence agents.

Relations between Washington and Islamabad, already severely strained by the Bin Laden operation, have deteriorated considerably since then. The doctor's arrest has exacerbated these tensions. The US is understood to be concerned for the doctor's safety, and is thought to have intervened on his behalf.

The vaccination plan was conceived after American intelligence officers tracked an al-Qaida courier, known as Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti, to what turned out to be Bin Laden's Abbottabad compound last summer. The agency monitored the compound by satellite and surveillance from a local CIA safe house in Abbottabad, but wanted confirmation that Bin Laden was there before mounting a risky operation inside another country.

DNA from any of the Bin Laden children in the compound could be compared with a sample from his sister, who died in Boston in 2010, to provide evidence that the family was present.

So agents approached Afridi, the health official in charge of Khyber, part of the tribal area that runs along the Afghan border.

The doctor went to Abbottabad in March, saying he had procured funds to give free vaccinations for hepatitis B. Bypassing the management of the Abbottabad health services, he paid generous sums to low-ranking local government health workers, who took part in the operation without knowing about the connection to Bin Laden. Health visitors in the area were among the few people who had gained access to the Bin Laden compound in the past, administering polio drops to some of the children.

Afridi had posters for the vaccination programme put up around Abbottabad, featuring a vaccine made by Amson, a medicine manufacturer based on the outskirts of Islamabad.

In March health workers administered the vaccine in a poor neighbourhood on the edge of Abbottabad called Nawa Sher. The hepatitis B vaccine is usually given in three doses, the second a month after the first. But in April, instead of administering the second dose in Nawa Sher, the doctor returned to Abbottabad and moved the nurses on to Bilal Town, the suburb where Bin Laden lived.

It is not known exactly how the doctor hoped to get DNA from the vaccinations, although nurses could have been trained to withdraw some blood in the needle after administrating the drug.

"The whole thing was totally irregular," said one Pakistani official. "Bilal Town is a well-to-do area. Why would you choose that place to give free vaccines? And what is the official surgeon of Khyber doing working in Abbottabad?"

A nurse known as Bakhto, whose full name is Mukhtar Bibi, managed to gain entry to the Bin Laden compound to administer the vaccines. According to several sources, the doctor, who waited outside, told her to take in a handbag that was fitted with an electronic device. It is not clear what the device was, or whether she left it behind. It is also not known whether the CIA managed to obtain any Bin Laden DNA, although one source suggested the operation did not succeed.

Mukhtar Bibi, who was unaware of the real purpose of the vaccination campaign, would not comment on the programme.

Pakistani intelligence became aware of the doctor's activities during the investigation into the US raid in which Bin Laden was killed on the top floor of the Abbottabad house. Islamabad refused to comment officially on Afridi's arrest, but one senior official said: "Wouldn't any country detain people for working for a foreign spy service?"

The doctor is one of several people suspected of helping the CIA to have been arrested by the ISI, but he is thought to be the only one still in custody.

Pakistan is furious over being kept in the dark about the raid, and the US is angry that the Pakistani investigation appears more focused on finding out how the CIA was able to track down the al-Qaida leader than on how Bin Laden was able to live in Abbottabad for five years.

Over the weekend, relations were pummelled further when the US announced that it would cut $800m (£500m) worth of military aid as punishment for Pakistan's perceived lack of co-operation in the anti-terror fight. William Daley, the White House chief of staff, went on US television on Sunday to say: "Obviously, there's still a lot of pain that the political system in Pakistan is feeling by virtue of the raid that we did to get Osama bin Laden, something the president felt strongly about and we have no regrets over."

The CIA refused to comment on the vaccination plot (Guardian, 2011)

Title: Pakistani Militant Commander Refuses Polio Vaccine Teams Over Drone Attacks
Date: June 16, 2012
Source:
Fox News

Abstract: A militant commander in northwest Pakistan warned polio vaccination teams on Saturday to stay away from the territory he controls near the Afghan border, saying he would not allow immunizations until U.S. drone attacks in the country are stopped.   

The statement by Hafiz Gul Bahadur is an obstacle to efforts to beat polio on Pakistan, one of only three nations where the virus is endemic.

The threat came in a pamphlet distributed Saturday in markets in the troubled North Waziristan tribal region. "We don't want benefits from well-wishers who spend billions to save children from polio, which can affect one or two out of hundreds of thousands, while on the other hand the same well-wisher (America) with the help of its slave (Pakistan's government) kills hundreds of innocent tribesmen including old women and children by unleashing numerous drone attacks," it said.

The pamphlet also said spies could enter the region under the cover of vaccination teams to get information for the United States about "holy warriors." It said teams who disregarded his warning would be responsible for any consequences.

The polio virus, which usually infects children living in unsanitary conditions, attacks the nerves and can kill or paralyze.

Bahadur is believed to have a truce with the Pakistani army, while he focuses on attacks against U.S. and NATO troops across the Afghan border. Some of his fighters have recently been killed in the U.S. drone attacks, which Pakistan's government also opposes.

Washington has refused to stop the strikes, which it holds are an essential weapon against militants. It is widely believed in Pakistan that most of the dead are civilians, but villagers living near the sites of a number of major strikes told the The Associated Press in a report published earlier this year that a significant majority of those killed were combatants.

The region's top health official Mohammed Sadiq said that teams had completed an initial round of anti-polio vaccinations, but would not start another round of the campaign that was scheduled to begin from June 20. He said 162,000 children were to be immunized.

Sadiq said they had informed Pakistani authorities and the World Health Organization about the warning (Fox News, 2012).

Title: WHO Doctor In Anti-Polio Campaign Shot In Pakistan
Date: July 17, 2012
Source:
Fox News

Abstract: Gunmen in the Pakistani city of Karachi opened fire Tuesday on a vehicle carrying a doctor working with the World Health Organization on an anti-polio campaign, wounding him in the stomach, the organization said.

The head of the World Health Organization's polio eradication program in Pakistan, Dr. Elias Durry, said the doctor is an international volunteer helping supervise the project. He said the man underwent surgery in Karachi.

Pakistan is in the middle of a campaign to vaccinate children under five. Taliban militants in northern Pakistan have barred the vaccination campaign from territory under their control, saying it can't go forward until the U.S. stops drone strikes in the country.

In a statement, WHO said the attack did not appear to be specifically targeting the doctor.

"At this point, there is no evidence to suggest that this was a deliberate or targeted attack against polio eradication efforts or WHO," the Geneva-based organization said. "WHO is grateful to the Pakistan authorities for launching an investigation into this event, to determine more clearly the circumstances."

Pakistan's largest city, Karachi has struggled for years with political and criminal violence.

Durry said despite the shooting WHO is committed to eliminating polio in Pakistan.

"This incident will not distract from the progress Pakistan is making this year, as the country is closer than ever to eradication," the organization said.

Pakistan is one of only three countries where the disease is endemic. The virus usually infects children living in unsanitary conditions, attacks the nerves and can kill or paralyze.

The government, teaming up with U.N. agencies, is on a nationwide campaign to give oral polio drops to 34 million children under the age of five. This is the third of four nation-wide anti-polio vaccination campaigns scheduled for this year in Pakistan, said Michael Coleman, a spokesman with UNICEF's polio campaign.

But vaccination programs, especially those with international links, have come under suspicion in the country since a Pakistani doctor ran a fake vaccination program to help the CIA track down Usama bin Laden.

While security concerns have long made it difficult to reach areas such as North and South Waziristan in Pakistan's tribal regions near the Afghan border, the Taliban threats in June were the first time that militants had actively campaigned against the vaccination programs.

As a result, vaccinations are not taking place in those areas during this campaign (Fox News, 2012).

Title: Taliban To U.S.: End Drone Strikes In Pakistan, Or No More Polio Vaccines
Date: June 18, 2012
Source: 
CNN

Abstract: A Taliban commander in northwest Pakistan has announced a ban on polio vaccines for children as long as the United States continues its campaign of drone strikes in the region, according to a statement by the Taliban.

"Polio drops will be banned in North Waziristan until the drones strikes are stopped," said the statement, released Saturday.

"Almost every resident of North Waziristan has become a mental patient because of the drone strikes, which are worse than polio," the statement continued. "On one hand, the U.S. spends millions of dollars to eliminate polio, while on the other hand it kills hundreds with the help of its slave, Pakistan."

Pakistan remains one of only three countries that have yet to eradicate polio.

The country's polio campaign made headlines last year when a Pakistani doctor was linked to a CIA operation to verify Osama bin Laden's whereabouts with a door-to-door vaccination campaign in the town of Abbottabad, where the al Qaeda leader was hiding before he was killed.

U.S. officials have said the plan did not work, but aid groups and Pakistani health officials have said the CIA's alleged meddling with a vaccination campaign undermined Pakistan's efforts to eradicate polio.

Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur made the decision on the vaccination ban after consulting with other Taliban leaders, according to the statement.

Bahadur commands the faction of the Taliban based in North Waziristan, the district Washington believes is the main safe haven for the Haqqani network and other militant groups fueling the insurgency in Afghanistan.

It's not clear how Bahadur's decree will impact the polio eradication campaign in North Waziristan or in nearby districts, where he doesn't wield as much power.

It is widely believed that Bahadur is allied with the Haqqani network and provides shelter for the group in North Waziristan. The United States has pushed Pakistan to launch an offensive against the militant groups in North Waziristan, but Pakistani military officials have resisted, saying their troops are stretched too thin.

In April, U.S. President Barack Obama's chief counterterrorism adviser John Brennan acknowledged the use of U.S. drones.

"Yes, in full accordance with the law -- and in order to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States and to save American lives -- the United States government conducts targeted strikes against specific al Qaeda terrorists, sometimes using remotely piloted aircraft, often referred to publicly as drones," Brennan said (CNN, 2012)

Title: Why The CIA’s Vaccine Ruse Is A Setback For Global Health
Date: July 18, 2011
Source:
TIME

Abstract: Last week, the Guardian 
broke the news that in the run-up to the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, the CIA used a vaccination campaign as a ruse to get DNA evidence from the al-Qaeda leader’s kids.  With help from a Pakistani doctor, Shakil Afridi, they set up clinics in two neighborhoods, delivering doses of the Hepatitis B vaccine to local children. The revelation drew a quick and angry response from health experts. Medecins Sans Frontieres called the operation “a dangerous abuse of medical care.”  In the Washington Post, Orin Levine and Laurie Garrett warned that the CIA’s “reckless tactics could have catastrophic consequences.”

Indeed, they may. Here are three reasons why this is bad news for public health:

Broken Trust
When people don’t trust medical personnel, they’re less likely to participate in legitimate public health campaigns. Eight years ago, rumors spread that an anti-polio campaign in Nigeria was an 
American plot to sterilize Muslim girls, causing many families to refuse the vaccine. The subsequent outbreak spread to eight countries. In Pakistan, the CIA’s operation may hurt a efforts to eradicate polio, argue Levine and Garrett:

Many Pakistani communities suffer from preventable infections, including ones that have been brought under control or eradicated elsewhere. Pakistan is the last place on Earth where wild polio still spreads in local outbreaks. Only a handful of places elsewhere in the world have sporadic cases, and vaccine campaigns are vigorous in those areas. But if the Rotary Club, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, governments and others working to eradicate polio realize their aspirations, Pakistan is where victory will be pronounced.

Complicating matters is the fact that Pakistan recently dissolved its Ministry of Health, which has left international programs to negotiate directly with local leaders. Many such leaders may be inclined to distrust doctors or to believe that vaccination programs are CIA ploys designed to hurt their communities.

Compromised Security
The CIA’s vaccine ruse bolsters the belief that humanitarian workers are government agents, which may heighten the risk of violence against them. Chris Albon a Ph.D. candidate and the founder of 
conflicthealth.com, reports that there is a recent history of violence attacks on humanitarian workers in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In 2007, a doctor who spoke out against anti-vaccine propaganda was killed in Bajaur agency. The same year, he notes, Taliban fighters kidnapped a public health worker and held him captive until he promised to stop vaccinating children.  Last August, Taliban gunmen captured and killed ten aid workers in Afghanistan, claiming they were spies. Such incidents keep health workers out of high-need conflict zones, often the very areas that are in need of care.

Conspiracy Theories, Galore
Humanitarian organizations have spent years trying to convince people that international aid workers are not, in fact, spies, or agents of doom. In Abbottabad and elsewhere, that’s going to be an increasingly tough sell
(TIME, 2012)

Title: Taliban's Vaccine Ban May Affect 280,000 Children
Date: July 18, 2012
Source:
CNN

Abstract: A ban on polio vaccinations imposed by the Taliban could affect about 280,000 children living in tribal areas of northwest Pakistan, according to estimates from the World Health Organization.

Last month, local Taliban militants prohibited polio vaccines over the United States' use of drone strikes in the region.

When a three-day nationwide effort to administer polio vaccines began this week,health workers and volunteers weren't able to immunize children in North and South Waziristan.

Under this security situation, they "obviously cannot operate," said Mazhar Nisar, the health education adviser in the Pakistani prime minister's polio program. "We're hoping that the campaign will resume in the near future."

Throughout the rest of the country, vaccination efforts continued as 180,000 health workers and volunteers fanned throughout communities trying to immunize 34 million children, under the age of 5.

The vaccine ban began in June after a Taliban commander in northwest Pakistan declared in a statement that the vaccines "would be banned in North Waziristan until the drones strikes are stopped."

The commander, Hafiz Gul Bahadur said that the drone strikes "are worse than polio," and consulted with other Taliban leaders regarding the decision, according to the statement. Drone strikes are widely unpopular, as the Pakistani government has pressed the U.S. administration to stop the attacks. 20 dead in drone attack in Pakistan

Pakistan remains one of the three countries in the world grappling with polio. The country has had 22 reported cases this year. The other two countries are Afghanistan with 11 cases and Nigeria with 54.

Polio is highly contagious and can cause paralysis, breathing problems, deformities and death. There is no cure for polio, so the focus lies on vaccines to prevent the disease.

The vaccine is administered orally, and in multiple doses to achieve full immunity.

Pakistan's tribal regions are areas where polio is known to be active, according to disease data.

"In a situation like this, any child who has not been administered for polio vaccine remains at risk," Nisar said.

Vaccination points have been set up in the entry and exit points to the tribal areas, he added.

The WHO, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and Rotary International have a joint polio eradication campaign.

"Our concern is reaching every single child possible," said Michael Coleman, a communication specialist for UNICEF and polio. "Where there are limitations presented, it's a concern."

To date, Pakistan "has had real progresses," said Coleman. "People are being reached, we need to be keeping that momentum up."

This is not the first time that Pakistan's polio campaign has made headlines.

Last year, a Pakistani doctor was linked to a CIA operation to verify Osama bin Laden's whereabouts with a door-to-door vaccination campaign in the town of Abbottabad, where the al Qaeda leader was hiding before he was killed.

U.S. officials have said the plan did not work, but aid groups and Pakistani health officials have said the CIA's alleged meddling with a vaccination campaign undermined Pakistan's efforts to eradicate polio.

The ban on the polio vaccine has drawn criticism.

"Proscribing inoculation merely because some score is to be settled with the U.S. or the government is again an act of extremist proportions that would earn the Taliban more public anger," stated an editorial from The Nation, a Pakistani newspaper.

Nisar pointed out that both Western and Islamic countries have eradicated polio through vaccines.

"There is no reason why Pakistan cannot do it," he said. "This message needs to be disseminated, it needs to be reinforced. This is a campaign which saves the children from permanent disability. There cannot be a reason to deny one's children of this facility" (CNN, 2012).

Title: Extremely Rare Outbreak Of Naegleria Kills 8 In Pakistan According To Reports
Date: July 20, 2012
Source:
Examiner

Abstract: In a extremely rare event, the Pakistan news source, 
The News Tribe reports an outbreak of the “brain-eating amoeba” in the Southern part of Pakistan which took the lives of 8 people.

According to the report, the eight victims all died in the past week from the parasitic disease. They were hospitalized at Agha Khan University Hospital and Liaquat National Hospital in Karachi.

There are no other details on the outbreak from the report.

Naegleria fowleri is a relatively rare, pathogenic amoeba found in warm or hot freshwater like lakes, rivers and hot springs. It is also possible to get it from dirty unchlorinated or under-chlorinated swimming pools. This parasite is found worldwide and in the United States, it is found  mainly in the southern-tier states.

People typically get it by swimming, jumping or playing in freshwater and get the water up their nose. From there the parasite travels to the brain and spinal cord and necrotizes or basically eats brain tissue. The disease is known as primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) and it has a very rapid progression.

Typical symptoms may start after a day or two; headache, fever, nausea and vomiting. Later symptoms may include seizures, irrational behavior, hallucinations and finally coma and death. The course of the disease typically last about a week. Because the symptoms are very similar to bacterial meningitis, PAM may not even be considered in the diagnosis.

Fortunately, it’s a pretty rare disease, with only approximately 30 cases in the past decade.

Unfortunately, treatment is usually unsuccessful with only a handful of people surviving infection.

You should always assume there is some risk when swimming in freshwater. The location and number of amoeba present in a body of water varies from time to time. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention recommends these four steps to reduce your risk of infection:

• Avoid water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater, hot springs, and thermally-polluted water such as water around power plants.
• Avoid water-related activities in warm freshwater during periods of high water temperature and low water levels.
• Hold the nose shut or use nose clips when taking part in water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater such as lakes, rivers, or hot springs.
• Avoid digging in or stirring up the sediment while taking part in water-related activities in shallow, warm freshwater areas
(Examiner, 2012)
.

Title: Suspicions Of The West Hampers Polio Battle
Date: September 29, 2012
Source:
Vancouver Sun

Abstract: When Bill Gates hears about children like Fahad Usman, a two-year-old Pakistani boy crippled by polio before he learned to walk, the billionaire philanthropist sounds frustrated and fired up.

Fear and suspicion have prevented thousands of children like Fahad from being protected against the infectious and incurable disease. Now more than ever, it's time that stopped, Gates says.

Rumours that polio immunization campaigns are "Western plots to sterilize Muslims" or that the vaccine is "George Bush's urine" underline the need to take politics out of the fight to eradicate polio, he says.

If Gates, the most influential of global health advocates, gets his wish - and in an interview he's pretty sure he will - the world won't stop at the 99 per cent reduction in cases so far, but will rid itself of polio completely by 2018.

Yet evidence from Pakistan and Afghanistan, two of only three countries where polio is still endemic, suggests a battle lies ahead to overcome Taliban opposition, vaccine refusals, security and funding gaps to beat out that last one per cent.

"We are working hard to depoliticize the whole thing," said Gates, whose $35-billion Gates Foundation is spear-heading international efforts to eradicate the disease.

"In no way should this campaign be associated with just the West," he said. "This is the whole world working together to eradicate a disease."

Polio attacks the central nervous sys-tem and can cause permanent paralysis within hours of infection. Two-year-old Fahad is one of 35 children struck down with it in Pakistan so far this year.

"Fahad's left leg went completely limp, and slowly, in a day or so, his right leg was gone too," his father says.

There is no cure for polio, but it can be prevented. A polio vaccine given in several doses can protect a child for life.

The most recent case in Pakistan was recorded on Aug. 30, and because polio spreads from person to person, the World Health Organization says as long as any child remains infected, children everywhere are at risk.

Afghanistan and Nigeria have recorded 17 and 88 cases so far this year respectively, while Chad, a non-endemic country which borders Nigeria, has had five.

Gates and experts at the Global Polio Eradication Initiative insist the $2 billion a year needed now will be well worth it. They say if the campaign succeeds, the world would not only declare its second eradicated disease - smallpox was wiped out in 1979 - it would also be billions of dollars richer.

A 2010 study found that if polio trans-mission were to be stopped by 2015 the net benefit from reduced treatment costs and productivity gains would be $40 billion to $50 billion by 2035.

Yet getting the pink drops of protective vaccine into every child - over 90 per cent coverage is needed to succeed in wiping out this highly infectious disease - is complex.

Immunization campaigns have been disrupted by fighting along the Afghan-Pakistan border where villages are home to many of the children missed so far.

Senior Taliban commanders, Maulvi Raza Shah and Sirajuddin Ahmad, say they oppose polio vaccines because they don't know what is in them and believe they are part of a plot by the West to sterilize Muslims.

"Every drug has a known formula but polio vaccine has no formula. And then the United States and its allies are giving us this vaccine free of cost when they don't even give free water to their own people," said Raza Shah.

Experts say if the eradication effort fails and polio rebounds, the virus could cause up to 10 million cases in the next 40 years (Vancouver Sun, 2012).

Title: Suspicions Of The West Hampers Polio Battle
Date: September 29, 2012
Source:
Vancouver Sun

Abstract: When Bill Gates hears about children like Fahad Usman, a two-year-old Pakistani boy crippled by polio before he learned to walk, the billionaire philanthropist sounds frustrated and fired up.

Fear and suspicion have prevented thousands of children like Fahad from being protected against the infectious and incurable disease. Now more than ever, it's time that stopped, Gates says.

Rumours that polio immunization campaigns are "Western plots to sterilize Muslims" or that the vaccine is "George Bush's urine" underline the need to take politics out of the fight to eradicate polio, he says.

If Gates, the most influential of global health advocates, gets his wish - and in an interview he's pretty sure he will - the world won't stop at the 99 per cent reduction in cases so far, but will rid itself of polio completely by 2018.

Yet evidence from Pakistan and Afghanistan, two of only three countries where polio is still endemic, suggests a battle lies ahead to overcome Taliban opposition, vaccine refusals, security and funding gaps to beat out that last one per cent.

"We are working hard to depoliticize the whole thing," said Gates, whose $35-billion Gates Foundation is spear-heading international efforts to eradicate the disease.

"In no way should this campaign be associated with just the West," he said. "This is the whole world working together to eradicate a disease."

Polio attacks the central nervous sys-tem and can cause permanent paralysis within hours of infection. Two-year-old Fahad is one of 35 children struck down with it in Pakistan so far this year.

"Fahad's left leg went completely limp, and slowly, in a day or so, his right leg was gone too," his father says.

There is no cure for polio, but it can be prevented. A polio vaccine given in several doses can protect a child for life.

The most recent case in Pakistan was recorded on Aug. 30, and because polio spreads from person to person, the World Health Organization says as long as any child remains infected, children everywhere are at risk.

Afghanistan and Nigeria have recorded 17 and 88 cases so far this year respectively, while Chad, a non-endemic country which borders Nigeria, has had five.

Gates and experts at the Global Polio Eradication Initiative insist the $2 billion a year needed now will be well worth it. They say if the campaign succeeds, the world would not only declare its second eradicated disease - smallpox was wiped out in 1979 - it would also be billions of dollars richer.

A 2010 study found that if polio trans-mission were to be stopped by 2015 the net benefit from reduced treatment costs and productivity gains would be $40 billion to $50 billion by 2035.

Yet getting the pink drops of protective vaccine into every child - over 90 per cent coverage is needed to succeed in wiping out this highly infectious disease - is complex.

Immunization campaigns have been disrupted by fighting along the Afghan-Pakistan border where villages are home to many of the children missed so far.

Senior Taliban commanders, Maulvi Raza Shah and Sirajuddin Ahmad, say they oppose polio vaccines because they don't know what is in them and believe they are part of a plot by the West to sterilize Muslims.

"Every drug has a known formula but polio vaccine has no formula. And then the United States and its allies are giving us this vaccine free of cost when they don't even give free water to their own people," said Raza Shah.

Experts say if the eradication effort fails and polio rebounds, the virus could cause up to 10 million cases in the next 40 years (Vancouver Sun, 2012).