The Polio Emergency

The Polio Emergency In Karachi, at least 40 health workers have been shot and killed while vaccinating children against polio. The Taliban claim the inoculation programme is a Western plot to undermine the country.
Naseem Munir dispenses vital preventative medicines to children in the suburban sprawl of Pakistan's largest city. Here, polio - a crippling disease eradicated in all but 3 countries in the world - still threatens. "This is my mission. I see myself as a soldier. I don't want to see my country paralysed." Her battle, however, is not only against the spread of the highly contagious viral infection in Pakistan's seething urbanisations, but also against an entrenched culture of suspicion and hostility towards aid programmes in general. Following revelations that the CIA used a sham vaccination campaign as cover for intelligence work, extreme Islamist groups now see those involved as legitimate targets. "This polio vaccination is not a medicine for any disease", claims a local Taliban leader. "It's for the destruction of the culture and morality of Islam." Violent attacks on polio workers are becoming increasingly common, and have made the task of cauterizing the disease practically impossible. With the World Health Organisation declaring the situation an emergency, the courage of these women on the ground is unlikely to be enough to safeguard the world's most vulnerable populations.

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