What Polio and Missing Schoolgirls Have in Common

05/08/2014
Maps of Pakistan and Nigeria

In Nigeria, more than 270 schoolgirls are kidnapped and enslaved by an obscure militant group called Boko Haram. A few days later, the World Health Organization warns that polio is making a comeback, and declares a global public health emergency.

The link between these two calamities is Islamist terrorism. Far from being eradicated, this deadly disease is as virulent as ever. It strikes hardest at women, teenaged girls and children. And the world seems powerless to stop it.

“I abducted your girls,” Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau taunts in a chilling new video. “There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell.” The goal of Boko Haram (which means “Western learning is sinful” or “forbidden”) is to create a radical Islamic state in Nigeria. This is not the first time the group has attacked schoolchildren. It specializes in burning them alive.

Meantime, the highly contagious polio virus is radiating out of Pakistan and showing up in Afghanistan and Syria. 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.

The full article continues at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/what-polio-and-missing-schoolgirls-have-in-common/article18535278/ on The Globe and Mail’s website.