Pakistan launches polio drive in tribal regions

August 26, 2014 - 12:00:00 am

PESHAWAR: Pakistan yesterday launched a fresh drive to vaccinate more than 700,000 children in its restive tribal belt against polio, but officials said nearly 300,000 others would miss out because of threats from militants.

The World Health Organisation declared a global ‘public health emergency’ in early May after new polio cases began surfacing and spreading across borders from countries including Pakistan.

It is one of only three countries, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, where the crippling disease remains endemic.

But violence has badly hampered the campaign to stamp out polio in Pakistan, where militant groups with strongholds in tribal areas -- including the Pakistani Taliban -- see vaccination campaigns as a cover for espionage.

Some 56 people including health workers and police providing security have been killed in militant attacks on polio vaccination teams in Pakistan since December 2012.

“A four-day vaccination drive began today to administer polio drops to children in tribal regions," senior campaign official Ikhtiar Ali said yesterday.