The Slatest

Polio on Rise in Northern Pakistan, Where Taliban Has Prohibited Vaccinations

An aid worker administering polio vaccine in Pakistan earlier this year.

Sara Farid/Reuters

In 2012, the Pakistani Taliban and other militant groups banned polio vaccinations in the North Waziristan region; vaccinations are believed by some radicals to be cover for the sterilization of Muslim children, while paranoia may also have been provoked by the phony hepatitis vaccination campaign the CIA used to gain access to Osama bin Laden’s compound before he was killed. (The doctor who helped the CIA organize the campaign is serving 23 years in prison on separate charges believed to be pretexts to punish him for aiding the U.S.) Two years after the ban, the country is seeing an outbreak of polio—202 children have been paralyzed by the virus this year, during which Pakistan has accounted for 83% of the world’s cases of the mostly eradicated disease. From the Wall Street Journal:

Officials said the jump in the number of cases this year was driven by the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people by fighting the North Waziristan tribal region, after the government launched an offensive against militant groups based there…

“There has been no vaccination campaign in North Waziristan since June 2012,” said Bilal Ahmed, who leads polio eradication efforts in the tribal areas and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province for Unicef. “So when a high-risk group like that moves, the risk of spread increases.”

More than 60 people have been killed in attacks on polio vaccination campaigns since 2011. Earlier this year, a 30-year-old public health worker named Salma Farooqi was abducted from her home and murdered in the city of Peshawar, which is in a province adjacent to North Waziristan.