Via The News International, an editorial: Polio certificate.
Starting June 1 all those wishing to travel abroad have to present a certificate attesting that they have been administered a vaccination for polio. Counters set up at airports around the country to vaccinate travellers have been overwhelmed by demand by those unaware of the new regulations.
We have no one but ourselves to blame for the indignity being heaped on us. The Independent Monitoring Board, reporting on the PM’s polio cell’s vow to eradicate the virus by the end of the year, says that Pakistan has broken the promise made to its children.
For years the likes of Mullah Fazlullah have spread propaganda about vaccinations being part of a nefarious Western plot to ensure our children grow up infertile. They backed up the rhetoric with extreme violence, to the point where vaccinating children in Karachi, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the tribal areas may be one of the most hazardous jobs in the country.
The re-emergence of polio in previously polio-free countries like Syria is traced back to strains originating from Pakistan. Through it all the government has pledged money and security to ensure every child is vaccinated but has failed miserably in its task.
That the international community, in the form of the World Health Organisation, now wants to regulate our movement is understandable. Polio had virtually been wiped out but thanks to us it stands a good chance of making a comeback. Till we can ensure that we have halted the revival of polio the world does not owe us the right to unimpeded travel.
Even if the WHO has the right to take this decision, that does not mean it will be effective in its goal of containing the polio virus. Carriers of the virus tend to be from low-income areas who, if they travelled internationally, would be more likely to do so through land routes rather than by air. The strain found in Syria is believed to have been carried by militants who went to the country to join the fight against Assad. Such people, needless to say, do not go through the proper channels when travelling abroad.
The reality is that there is no simple solution to a complex problem. Until we can stamp out the poisonous ideology that is at the root of this and many other societal issues, measures like the vaccination certificate requirement will be a minor inconvenience that doesn’t address the underlying issue.
It will take years of education and an honest fight to defeat poverty before we can defeat an extremist mindset that is growing ever more mainstream.