The Worth of a Picture

12/31/2013
Afiya Shehrbano

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. Some of the applause is simply an expression of relief that Khan’s party has distanced itself from the Taliban’s world-view on this issue, in more categorical terms than usual. Laudable as it is, there is, however, a problem with this picture.

When the Taliban invaded and occupied Swat between 2006 and 2009, their ‘health policy’ was to actively persecute community health workers and abolish maternal services and polio administration by issuing three fatwas. Pakistani authors of a study published in the British Medical Journal (‘How the Taliban undermined community healthcare in Swat, Pakistan,’ http://www.bmj.com/content/344/bmj.e2093), Ud Din, Mumtaz, and Ataullahjan, conducted in-depth interviews with Swat-residing, Pakhtun lady health workers.

They found that due to the Taliban’s threat and violence against the LHWs, not only did the overall infrastructure of community health suffer drastically but maternal mortality increased considerably as well. Individual LHWs were socially ostracised through a vilification campaign and many left or stopped working due to direct threats to their lives.

The full article continues at http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-9-223511-The-worth-of-a-picture on The News’s website.