Polio in Pakistan.

Hello Everyone, This is an old post from December 2012 that I forgot to publish but it’s still relevant and contains some recent news so I hope you enjoy. I promise to be more consistent with my blogging; I’ll be aiming for one post a week at minimum.

Today news comes from Pakistan that 5 health care workers, all of them women;who were working to vaccinate children against Polio, were gunned down in co-ordinated attacks in Karachi and Peshawar. 4 women were killed and several injured in 5 separate attacks in different parts of Karachi that all took place within an hour. Another woman was killed in Peshawar which borders the militant ridden tribal areas and her sister was wounded as they administered Polio vaccines to the local children. Suspicion has fallen on the Taliban for perpetrating the attacks which have led to the halt of a Government led and World Health Organization supported drive to vaccinate 35 million Pakistani children.

A grieving Mother looks upon the body of her young daughter who was gunned down while distributing Polio vaccination drops to poor children in Karachi

The WHO has led a global effort to eradicate Polio which has tremendous success except in: Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan the only three nations where Polio remains endemic. Polio is a viral disease that can be transmitted from an infected person to others and can cause paralysis and death; especially in young children. Pakistan has made great strides in eradicating Polio with only 56 cases reported this year a sharp decline from the 192 reported cases in 2011. Polio only persists in areas controlled by the Taliban and other religious militants who believe that the West uses Polio vaccines to render Muslim children infertile, or use the door to door nature of the vaccination effort to spy on Taliban members. And in early January 2013 several more health care workers involved in the Polio vaccination program were gunned down in broad daylight.

The attacks will certainly deal a major blow to vaccination efforts, most likely resulting in the cancellation of the 2013 vaccination drive and they might well lead to a resurgence of Polio cases in the coming years. The attacks in Karachi all took place in neighbourhoods inhabited by Pashtun’s who have fled from the Tribal areas during the last decade and have brought endemic Polio with them. Women volunteers are often sent to administer the oral Vaccine because women and children feel more comfortable dealing with them. The biggest victims of these attacks will be the vulnerable children who will be left at risk of Polio because health care workers fear for their lives. The government has condemned the attack but there is little it can do to protect the hundreds of thousands of health care workers, male and female, who participate in eradication drives; which is a terrible reality as the Government has done a good job of targeting Polio.

Polio can lead to severe deformities in Children that leave them disabled for life. Many Polio victims are forced to beg on the street in order to survive.

And in other tragic news Bargeeta Almby who was shot in the upscale Model town area of Lahore last week died in a Swedish Hospital. Almby was a Swedish Nun who had spent decades in Pakistan working to help the poor; particularly women and their children. Never before has Pakistan witnessed such concentrated violence against women and those seeking to help them. 2012 witnessed ruthless attacks against female charity workers both foreign and local, schoolgirls who have the gall to demand an education, and health care workers labouring to eradicate a horrible disease. Indeed violence against Women has increased in almost every category from: rape, honour killings, acid attacks, and kidnappings. And new statistics indicate that a shocking 75% of Pakistani girls are not in school; one of the worst rates of school attendance in the World.

Bargeeta Almby, a Swedish Nun who had dedicated her life to serving the poor of Pakistan died in a Swedish hospital after being gunned down in broad daylight in Lahore

Where does such hate come from? All of the militants who carried out these heinous attacks must have had Mothers. Surely they didn’t all grow up hating their mothers or their sisters or their aunts or their female cousins. How can men grow up to murder an elderly nun, or an innocent young school girl, or female health care workers trying to save children’s lives? Do they not think of their own mothers, their own sisters, their own daughters, as they pull the trigger? Would they not rage and seek vengeance if someone gunned down the women in their lives? Do they even view their victims as human?

Jinnah spoke of evil customs that relegated Women to a status little better than cattle. Evil customs backed by cultural traditions millennia old, by twisted interpretations of religious texts, and an obsession with patriarchal dominance likely as old as  human inhabitance of the Indian subcontinent. Evil customs that will rule until they are brought down. But who is going to bring them down? The Puppet-Masters of the land certainly won’t; a society in which more than half of the population is kept in subjugation suits them well. As for the State and it’s Governments they have utterly failed to protect its people be they girls seeking their right to an education, it’s own employee’s seeking to wipe a horrible disease from Pakistan, or even the dead lying in eternal rest.

General Zia-ul Haq was the military dictator of Pakistan from his 1977 coup to his 1988 murder. Zia was a cruel, violent man who hid behind his piety and charm and unleashed the dark forces that are destroying Pakistan

I have often wondered in these past 6 years of researching Pakistan if there would be turning point in which it became to late to save Pakistan as a nation-state. I now believe that year 2012  has been that turning point. 2012 has seen so many atrocities, each more audacious and terrifying than the last and Pakistan has been powerless to stop these atrocities. 2012 also marks the 24th year since that smiling wolf Zia ul-Haq was sent to a fiery death by his vice army chief. 24 years for the toxic legacy of Zia to fester and spread and grow in power. Perhaps there is a parallel to the 24 years it took for Jinnah’s Pakistan to collapse in the bloody birth of Bangladesh and the 24 years it has taken for Zia’s Pakistan to become a reality. But I think the greatest tragedy is the muted public reaction to these atrocities in Pakistan itself. There have been hardly any protests and no widespread rage at the perpetrators; instead there is the resigned silence of a nation that no longer has the will to summon outrage, silence akin to that of the grave.

Cyrus Durant.


About cyrusdurant

I'm just a man (or woman, I'll never tell) with a strange obsession for Pakistan. I also like to pretend that my opinions on things matter. I hope you will stay with me on this journey to whatever the future holds.
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3 Responses to Polio in Pakistan.

  1. AHB says:

    The muted public reaction is understandable given the lack of positive and almost uniformly negative response to previous outrages by the establishment. Even Pakistanis realize that there is no benefit to their protests. Unlike you, I still hold some dim hope for the country though.

    • cyrusdurant says:

      I agree it’s understandable but mass protests have in the past been the only thing that has forced the Establishment to change its ways. I really hope I’m wrong about there being no hope; perhaps the elections going off without a hitch might start some sort of turn around.

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