The Possible fall out of polio virus on Pukhtun diaspora and migrant workers



One of the aftermath of   Osama Bin Laden capture from his not so secret Abbottabad compound was, that a vigorous anti polio murderous drive launched by Taliban in KPK and FATA. The  emergence of news that US central intelligence agency has launched a fake vaccination programme with the help of Pakistan doctor to capture Osama bin laden, since then Pakistan polio worker has been targeted with the propaganda that they are all CIA operatives, out to make our children sterile.   . Part of the propaganda in tribal area (North Waziristan) was that these polio workers in this part of FATA mark people houses for drone attacks.

Since July 2012 alone, about 31 polio workers have been murdered by Taliban. One of the pamphlet left next to the targeted polio worker was that all those who are part of any polio vaccination campaign or found working for any non-governmental organisation would be killed in a similar manner.

In the year 2013 polio cases has increased from 58 in 2012 to 77 cases of polio this year ,and out of these 77 cases ,58 has been reported in FATA alone and news of  fresh new cases emerging . FATA Secretariat confirms that as many as 169,000 children in SWA and 166,000 in NWA have been deprived from administrating polio drops due to security concerns.

Another 39,000 children have been deprived of polio drops in Khyber Agency. Nationwide, 90 percent of polio cases occur among ethnic Pashto families, many of whom live in Pakistan’s northwest. Officials blame the violence and suspicions about the vaccine for a surge in cases.

A global eradication campaign has reduced polio cases by 99.9 per cent in the last three decades, but it remains endemic in only three countries Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Polio spread through person-to-person contact. When a child is infected with wild poliovirus, the virus enters the body through the mouth and multiplies in the intestine. It then shed into the environment through the faeces where it can spread rapidly through a community, especially in situations of poor hygiene and sanitation

Young children who are not yet toilet-trained are a ready source of transmission, regardless of their environment. Polio can spread when food or drink is contaminated by faeces. There is also evidence that flies can passively transfer poliovirus from faeces to food.

Acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) one in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis, usually in the legs. This is caused by the virus entering the blood stream and invading the central nervous system. As it multiplies, the virus destroys the nerve cells that activate muscles. The affected muscles are no longer functional and the limb becomes floppy and lifeless – a condition known as acute flaccid paralysis.

Most people infected with the poliovirus have no signs of illness and are never aware they have been infected. These symptomless people carry the virus in their intestines and can “silently” spread the infection to thousands of others before the first case of polio paralysis emerges.

For this reason, WHO considers a single confirmed case of polio paralysis to be evidence of an epidemic – particularly in countries where very few cases occur?

With the alarming rise of polio cases in Pakistan particularly FATA  and KPK , we are literally sitting on health bomb which if not defused  on time ,on emergency and priority basis it will have far more reaching consequences than we as nation believing and accepting Allah’s  ways . After the World Health Organization (WHO) termed Peshawar ‘the international reservoir of polio, one of the most obvious result of our inability to control polio is of course   future crippled kids ,  but   we will have an economic  disaster in shape of possible travel ban and deportation of Pakistan diaspora from middle east  resulting in serious economic consequences.

Millions of workers from pukhtun belt working in middle east in non-skilled labour category, and many inspiring to go abroad to earn a living for their families .  We have villages particularly in FATA and KPK where whole of village male population earn their living from abroad. During the last 18 months, Pakistan had infected many other countries with the poliovirus, by transmitting the virus to Syria, Egypt and Gaza crippling at least 13 children in Syria. Genetic sequencing traced the origin of virus to Pakistan. It is Syria’s first polio outbreak since 1999. Hence as result we already have news circulating of possible Haj ban by the Saudi govt.

While on the other hand our Federal Minister for Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development (OP&HRD) Pir Sadruddin Shah Rashidi talks about a new strategy to increase the  export of  Pakistani work force  to friendly Arab countries  so it can double the remittances from existing US$12 billion to US$24 billion. With the current possible travel ban and in surge of polio cases I am not sure how our strategy makers will achieve that. Polio might be a provincial matter for the current govt of kpk but polio as virus has no boundary demarcation.

With possible economic fallout resulting in loss of jobs for many in Arab states, high inflation, unemployment, no industrial base and war hit agricultural economy particularly of kpk and fata will only result in further deprivation for the second poorest province of Pakistan. Terrorism has not only resulted in loss of life but, destruction of infrastructure, internal migration, nose-diving of production and growing unemployment. With possible economic fallout of anti-polio campaign further affecting the war hit economy of kpk and fata. Polio eradication programme with huge investment on the part of WHO and non-governmental organisation seems to have offended a religious mafia who were benefiting previously   monetarily from the programme, which not only has resulted now in loss of life by targeting the polio workers but severely crippled the programme .  Central American intelligence agency (CIA) divulging of faking a vaccination scheme has further strengthened the hands of the religious mafia jeopardising the future of thousands kids in the region. Recently Khyber Pakhtunkhwa govt availed the services of   Pakistan’s renowned scholar, Mualana Samiul Haq of Darul Uloom Haqqania in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa who issued a Fatwa in support of Routine Immunization including polio, and UNICEF has employed the services of Mualana son might be one step in the right direction.

Cited work




4. Interview conducted with one of the journalist working on polio campaign.




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