The Heroism of Polio Vaccine Workers in Pakistan

Map of Pakistan

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.

The epicenter for the reemergence of polio is Pakistan. The World Health Organization has identified 68 new cases of polio this year worldwide, and almost 80 percent are in Pakistan. Reportedly, this resurgence of polio is due in part to the opposition of the Pakistani Taliban to vaccinations in the areas of Pakistan where it dominates, such as North Waziristan. Forty of the 59 cases reported in the first four months of this year have been from North Waziristan.

The Taliban’s opposition has been in the form of killing members of government and NGO vaccine teams. However, Julie Hollar of Common Dreams cites New York Times coverage contending that whatever the opposition of the Taliban to vaccination, attacks on vaccine teams “escalated” with word that the CIA purportedly recruited Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi to lead a “fake vaccination drive” to gain access to the residence of Al Qaeda founder and leader Osama bin Laden.

The notion that the Pakistani Taliban might consider polio vaccine workers spies probably predates the controversy surrounding Afridi, who is currently awaiting a new trial in Pakistan due to charges of treason. However, the vulnerability of aid workers has escalated in the country along with the rise of cases of polio.

The full article continues at on the Nonprofit Quarterly’s website.