FIMA President's Message referenced in NYT: "How Fighting in Pakistan Affects War Against Polio"

Source article:

Fierce fighting in Pakistan is harming and helping the country’s drive to eradicate polio.

With cases steadily decreasing in Nigeria, the only other persistent global hot spot, Pakistan is becoming the virus’s last refuge; 117 cases of polio paralysis have been found this year, up from 25 by this time last year. And in three months of fighting between the armed forces and the Taliban, nearly a million people have been displaced, spreading the virus, according to Unicef.

But the military operations can be “a blessing in disguise,” in the words of the Federation of Islamic Medical Associations, which wants the disease eliminated.

Most cases are in the rural Waziristan region, where leaders of some Taliban factions have banned vaccinations since 2012. As refugees flee, they often encounter polio vaccinators, who have given two million doses at roadside posts in parts of Waziristan now controlled by the army and in cities to which people from the region have fled.

However, cases do appear elsewhere, including just across the Afghan border and in distant urban neighborhoods where people from Waziristan now live.

If the grip of Taliban leaders is broken, the giving of vaccinations may increase quickly. A Harvard-Unicef survey of parents in other areas where the Taliban is strong found that more than 80 percent thought offering vaccine in their neighborhoods was a “very good” or “somewhat good” idea.

In May, the World Health Organization declared a public health emergency when polio spread to Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Iraq. But unless new cases are being missed because of fighting in Iraq and Syria, those appear — like the 2013 outbreaks in Somalia and Kenya — to have been snuffed out by vaccinations.

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