What was feared has happened; the Taliban’s ban on polio vaccination has crippled two more children in the lawless North Waziristan tribal agency bordering Afghanistan.
In addition, a polio case, the first such in the year, is reported in Frontier Region Dera Ismail Khan, taking the tally of children affected by the debilitating virus in the country this year to 31.
According to officials at the Prime Minister’s Polio Monitoring and Coordination Cell in Islamabad, thousands of children in North Waziristan are at high risk of contracting polio for being unvaccinated since June 2012 due to the Taliban ban slapped by local militant commander Hafiz Bahadur, who suspects the polio campaign is a cover for espionage by the US.
They say more than 240,000 children in North Waziristan and the adjoining South Waziristan are at risk due to the prolonged ban.
Until now this year, North Waziristan has reported seven polio cases triggering strong fears that if anti-polio drops are not administered to children in the troubled tribal area without delay, then not only the disease could become an epidemic there but it could also spread to the neighbouring areas.
As disclosed by officials, among the three fresh polio cases are Ashraf, Asadullah, eight-month-old resident of Mussaki village in Razmak tehsil of North Waziristan; Khadija, nine-month-old resident of Rasoolkhel village in Miranshah tehsil of North Waziristan, and 36-month-old resident of Postakai village (Surkaizai) in Darazinda tehsil, FR Dera Ismail Khan.
The two North Waziristan children have not received a single dose of oral polio vaccine since birth as the Taliban ban on vaccination has rendered their area inaccessible to health workers since June 2012.