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The Pakistani Taliban has banned UN health workers from administering polio vaccine to almost 250,000 children living in South and North Waziristan, the Taliban-controlled region along the Afghan-Pakistan border.
Despite the near eradication of polio worldwide — having been reduced from over 350,000 cases in 1988 to less than 700 in 2011 — Pakistan remains one of three countries, where the disease still remains endemic.
Yet, when the government of Pakistan recently launched a national three-day polio vaccination campaign targeting 34 million Pakistani children, its efforts to reach a quarter million children living in South and North Waziristan were rebuffed by the Taliban.
According to Taliban leaders, the UN vaccinators from the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF were really not health workers on a mission to protect vulnerable children from the dreaded viral disease, but rather US spies trying to locate new Taliban targets for American drone strikes.
Despite the absurdity of that charge, it should be noted that the Taliban view of vaccination campaigns of any kind had become somewhat jaundiced after it learned the United States had used a fake anti-hepatitis immunization campaign that helped lead to the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011.
So, given that lesson, an edict was issued by Pakistan Taliban chief Hafiz Gul Bahadur that banned the polio vaccination campaign in South and North Waziristan “as long as drone strikes are not stopped.”
According to Bahadur, the Taliban wasn’t in need of American “well-wishers who spend billions to save children from polio…while, on the other hand, the same well-wishers … kills hundreds of innocent tribesmen, including old women and children by unleashing numerous drone attacks.”
The Taliban’s decision was heartedly endorsed by 200 Waziristan tribal leaders, one of whom, Malak Mamoor Khan, said the drones were far more dangerous than the polio virus, because a “child rarely dies of polio while hundreds of children have died due to drones.”
Of course, Khan neglected to point out the heavy contributions the Pakistani Taliban has made to increase the mortality rate of Pakistani children, especially its fondness for using children as human explosives.
After all the Taliban and its Islamist allies in the region have long used Waziristan as an area in which to construct and operate a slew of suicide training facilities, death factories that have trained over 5,000 Pakistani children, many as young as eight, as suicide bombers.
In fact, the Pakistani jihadists’ enthusiasm for using children as human ordinance can be witnessed by the fact that of the 2,488 incidents of terrorism in Pakistan in the last two years — which have claimed the lives of 3,169 people — most were the result of suicide bombings conducted by underage terrorists.
So, it shouldn’t surprise then that the jihadists have now refused to inoculate children under its control from an acute viral infection that can lead to permanent paralysis and, in some cases, death.
Perhaps equally less surprising is that the one common thread that seems to link the three countries where polio remains endemic — Afghanistan and Nigeria being the two others — is that they almost exclusively occur in Muslim areas that are home to anti-Western and anti-American insurgencies.
In Nigeria, for example, Muslim clerics in the country’s predominantly Muslim north have long tried to block UN immunizations of children, which they consider nothing more than an orchestrated Western-led plot to depopulate the Muslim populace through vaccines laced with HIV and sterilization chemicals.
Those efforts to block vaccinations have since been aided by the support of Nigeria’s al-Qaeda-linked Islamist terror group Boko Haram, support which has helped lead to a four-fold national increase in polio, with the added bonus that the disease is now spreading to neighboring Niger, Mali and Ivory Coast.
In fact, like Nigeria, there is concern that polio may now be spreading outside of Pakistan, a concern bolstered by the fact that in late 2011, the World Health Organization traced China’s first polio outbreak in ten years back to Pakistan.
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