Saturday, November 09, 2013

Did Pakistani Jihadists Bring Polio To Syria?

Polio is a devastating, highly infectious disease that spreads and cripples children very quickly, and there is no cure. Vaccinating kids is the only way to stop it from spreading. For the most part, the world has been able to eradicate it. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) there are only three countries where polio is still endemic: Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. I'm not sure about Nigeria, but the reason why it's still a problem in Afghanistan and Pakistan, is because the Taliban- in all their breathtaking ignorance- think immunization is some Western conspiracy to sterilize Muslim children. So they've been systematically attacking and killing polio workers. Back in January, 7 aid workers were killed, including a doctor, and there have been others since. But it's not just the Taliban, two teachers attacked a woman when she came to their house, because they believed the polio vaccine was a plot by the U.S. to cause mental retardation.

Syria had been polio free for 14 years, until now.  And thanks to the Pakistani jihadists who have gone to Syria to fight, polio has come back with a vengeance. 10 under-immunized children, so far, have been paralyzed, and neighbouring countries are running scared. As a result Syria, Lebanon and some other countries in the Middle East are on a mission to vaccinate over 20 million kids. Lebanon has already started its campaign:

“Today was the launching of the polio campaign in Lebanon. Lebanon has been polio-free for almost twelve years and it should stay as it is. Therefore today, together with the ministry of health, we have started the vaccination of more than 750,000 under five children,” UNICEF representative in Lebanon, AnnaMaria Laurini, told Reuters.

Though there is no way to definitively determine if Pakistani fighters are to blame for bringing the virus to North East Syria, the fact that it's only one of three countries where polio is still a problem, and North East Syria is where the rebels have taken hold, it seems more than likely.

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