A few years ago, the nearly extinct disease of polio got a new lease on life when a Muslim governor of a Nigerian state (if governor and state are the right terms) forbade vaccinations in the paranoid belief that… well, who remembers or cares? What part of “paranoid” do we not get?
Five Pakistani polio vaccination workers – four of them women – have been shot dead in the country’s largest city Karachi, officials say.
The victims were reportedly working with a UN-backed programme to eradicate polio, which is endemic in Pakistan.
Pakistani health officials said the latest three-day nationwide anti-polio drive – during which an estimated 5.2 million polio drops were to be administered – had been suspended in Karachi due to the attacks.
There has been opposition to such immunisation drives in parts of Pakistan, particularly after a fake CIA hepatitis vaccination campaign helped to locate Osama Bin Laden in 2011.
Militants have kidnapped and killed foreign NGO workers in the past in an attempt to halt the immunisation drives which they say are part of efforts to spy on them.
Along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, Pakistan is one of only three countries where polio is still endemic.
Pakistan is considered the key battleground in the global fight against the disease, which attacks the nervous system and can cause permanent paralysis within hours of infection.
Nearly 200 children were paralysed in the country in 2011 – the worst figures in 15 years.
Earlier this year, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative warned that tackling the disease had entered “emergency mode” after “explosive” outbreaks in countries previously free of polio.
The World Health Organization said polio was at a tipping point, with experts fearing it could “come back with a vengeance” after large outbreaks in Africa and Tajikistan and China’s first recorded cases for more than a decade.
The result of all this is that Osama bin Laden is dead and polio is very much alive.