The Hidden Costs Of Fighting Polio In Pakistan — NPR org

During nationwide polio campaigns, hundreds of thousands of health workers go door to door, giving children two drops of the polio vaccine.

During nationwide polio campaigns, hundreds of thousands of health workers go door to door, giving children two drops of the polio vaccine. Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Pakistan is currently at the center of the global effort to eradicate polio. Although the country has reported only about a cases this year, that’s more cases than in all other nations combined.

Eliminating the paralyzing disease is a major logistical operation in Pakistan. More than 200,000 vaccinators fan out across the country, several times a year, to inoculate millions of children. The government also deploys tens of thousands of armed security forces to guard the workers.

Security officials attend the funeral of police officials killed by bombs in Jamrud, Pakistan, March 1. The men were escorting a team of polio vaccinators when their vehicles were targeted.

Security officials attend the funeral of police officials killed by bombs in Jamrud, Pakistan, March 1. The men were escorting a team of polio vaccinators when their vehicles were targeted. BIilawal Arbab/EPA/Landov

All this is happening while Pakistan is fighting against the Taliban — and that militant group continues to polio vaccinators and parents who immunize their children.

The polio campaign is costing Pakistani , national pride and precious health resources. Some health leaders are starting to question whether the focus on polio is worth it.

“All the immunization workers have been redirected into the polio campaign, which has resulted in another disaster: Our routine immunization has gone down to as low as 30 percent or less,” says Dr. Raza Jamal, of the National Institute of Child Health in Karachi. “So that has resulted in epidemics of measles, diphtheria, cases of pertussis — which we had stopped seeing for a long time.”

 

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