Blog

The Heroism of Polio Vaccine Workers in Pakistan

Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Just because time advances, it doesn’t mean conditions get better. It wasn’t all that long ago that polio had largely been eradicated from the world. But polio is back—in Nigeria, in Syria and, more significantly, in Pakistan. The story is complex, woven with political issues that seem to be unrelated to the reemergence of this horrible disease.

Violence Leaves Women, Girls, and Young People on the Edge in South Sudan

Monday, May 19, 2014
Two thirds of the health facilities in the areas affected by the conflict are reportedly closed or operating at limited capacity. In Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity states, the state hospitals that usually provide emergency obstetric care services are not functional. Alternative facilities at the periphery have either been looted or destroyed and/or health staff members have fled due to insecurity.

What Polio and Missing Schoolgirls Have in Common

Thursday, May 8, 2014
In an interview with the CBC this week, a World Health Organization official delicately blamed “the suspension of the vaccine in one area,” as if Pakistani health officials had committed some sort of careless lapse. This sort of airbrushing ignores the real cause, which is the systematic war the Taliban is waging against female health workers. Since July, 2012, at least 31 polio vaccination workers have been killed and many others have quit in fear of their and their families’ lives.

Protecting Health in Conflict

Friday, April 11, 2014
In 2009, while a fellow at the Center for Khmer Studies in Cambodia, I interviewed a pediatric nurse based at the Angkor Hospital for Children in Siem Reap. Our conversation was short, but what I remember most about the encounter was my colleague’s answer to my question about why she had come to Cambodia in the first place. “Yes, I’m from Sri Lanka. But I’m in Cambodia now because I know what it’s like to live in conflict. Good health is important, especially for women and children. So I’m here because I understand the context and have the skills to help.”

Health Workers and Health Facilities Must Be Protected in Afghanistan

Wednesday, April 9, 2014
I would like to reflect that Afghanistan is facing an armed conflict, and that the security situation has been gradually degrading over the past few years. In 2013 NGOs were impacted by 228 violent incidents, the highest number since 2011 and the worst year on record. During the four first months of 2014, 43 security incidents impacted NGOs in Afghanistan.

Sometimes Laughter Is the Only Medicine

Wednesday, March 26, 2014
The severe lack of medical supplies in Syria has been well documented by both the media and humanitarian and human rights groups. Humanitarian missions are blocked, supply trucks are targeted for attack, and those attempting to move critical medical supplies into Syria put their lives at risk. There are insufficient supplies of nearly everything needed by doctors and their patients – everything except laughter.

At the Oscars, a Spotlight on Health Care in the Midst of Violence

Friday, February 28, 2014
Flashback to February 2011. Arab Spring. In Sana’a, Yemen, protesters peacefully assemble in a makeshift tent city, calling for an end to 33 years of the president’s autocratic rule. They are male and female, young and old, urban and rural. Their numbers grow to tens of thousands. On March 18 of that year, the protesters proclaim the day to be Friday of Dignity (Karama in Arabic). Tensions are high. Over the past few days, armed men said to be loyal to the president have built walls to contain the protesters in what had been dubbed “Change Square.” On the Friday of Dignity, as the protesters finish a prayer, masked gunmen set fire to the main wall and begin shooting into the trapped crowd.

The Worth of a Picture

Tuesday, December 31, 2013
The images of Imran Khan and other PTI men administering polio drops to children in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have been welcomed and appreciated by many. This is especially significant given that militants in the province have rejected and obstructed polio vaccinations for some years now. Also, just over this last year, the systematic murders and attacks on polio workers across the country have become as endemic as the disease.

Medical Care Under Threat in 2013

Monday, December 30, 2013
In Bahrain, two nurses and a doctor remain imprisoned during the holidays simply for doing their job: treating the injured during the government crackdown. Turkey is considering a bill that seeks to criminalize emergency medical care -- the latest example of the government trying to intimidate doctors for caring for those injured in last summer's protests.

Recent Kidnappings Add Further Obstacles to Eradicating Polio in Pakistan

Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Physicians for Human Rights has long-condemned the use of health care workers for intelligence work, as it destroys the trust necessary for effective doctor-patient relationships and leaves patients suspicious of doctors’ medical advice. Kidnappings that recently took place in Pakistan are just one example among many of distrust of health care workers, which has served to increase the number of polio cases in the country.

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