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Protection Of Health Workers Necessary To Eradicate Polio

“The murders of charity and aid workers in Pakistan has dealt a devastating blow to a national campaign to wipe out polio and other deadly diseases,” a New York Times editorial states. “No one has claimed responsibility for the most recent attack, but suspicions point to the Pakistani Taliban and other militant groups that have opposed the vaccination drives, calling them a cover for government or international spies, or part of a plot to sterilize Muslim children,” the editorial says.

Killing Of Polio Workers In Pakistan Is Major Setback For Global Elimination Drive

“The brutal assassination of nine grassroots level health workers in Pakistan, who were involved in a door-to-door immunization campaign in an attempt to secure children from crippling polio, adds an unprecedentedly grave dimension to the ongoing carnage in Pakistan,” Sania Nishtar, founder of Heartfile, Heartfile Health Financing, and the recently launched Sania Nishtar Health Fund, writes in an opinion piece in the Huffington Post U.K.’s “Impact” blog. “[T]he occurrence has deep-seated implications for the global drive to eliminate an infectious disease for a second time from this planet,” she continues, adding, “Additionally, it illustrates the nature of polarization, mistrust and extremism, which has crept into the Pakistani society, posing challenges on many fronts, beyond public health.”

Pakistan Records 306 Measles Deaths In 2012, Compared With 64 In 2011, WHO Reports

“Measles cases surged in Pakistan in 2012, and hundreds of children died from the disease, an international health body said Tuesday,” the Associated Press/CBS News reports. “A spokeswoman for the World Health Organization, Maryam Yunus, said that 306 children died in Pakistan of measles in 2012, compared to 64 the year before,” the news agency writes (1/2). “She added that most of the children who died were from districts affected by floods for the past three years, and that malnourishment was a major reason for the high rate of measles deaths in Sindh,” GlobalPost writes (Langlois, 1/1).

Banning Thimerosal From Vaccines Could Hinder Achievements In Global Childhood Immunization

“Thanks to a herculean effort by health advocates, 78 percent of children in low-income countries receive the basic set of childhood vaccines, covering diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B and haemophilus influenza,” a Bloomberg View editorial states. However, “[t]his campaign will be disrupted, and lives lost, if immunization critics win their latest battle for an international ban on a vaccine component” — thimerosal, a mercury-containing organic compound — “that has proved to be safe time and time again,” the editorial writes, noting, “Groups such as the Coalition for Mercury-Free Drugs and the Coalition for SafeMinds are pressing their case before the United Nations Environmental Program [UNEP] meets on Jan. 13 to prepare a global treaty reducing mercury use.”

GAVI Alliance Audit Expressed ‘Serious Concerns Of Misuse Of GAVI Funds’ In Sierra Leone, Reuters Reports

The GAVI Alliance “has put on hold some $6 million earmarked for Sierra Leone after an audit showed misuse of previous funds, a document seen by Reuters showed,” Reuters reports. “The leaked letter from the GAVI Alliance dated November 15, 2012, and addressed to Sierra Leone’s health minister says an in-depth audit revealed ‘serious concerns of misuse of GAVI funds’ totaling $1,099,640,” the news agency writes, adding, “A GAVI spokesman said the irregularities, which included undocumented expenses, cash disbursements with no documentation and overcharged procurement costs, occurred from 2008 until 2012.”

Pakistan Reports 9th Death In Polio Worker Attacks, Resumes Vaccination Campaign Under Police Escort

“Another victim from attacks on U.N.-backed anti-polio teams in Pakistan died on Thursday, bringing the three-day death toll in the wave of assaults on volunteers vaccinating children across the country to nine, officials said,” the Associated Press reports (Khan, 12/20). “Four female health workers were killed in Karachi, shot dead by masked men on motorbikes. The other five victims, including a 17-year-old volunteer, were slain in Peshawar and Charsadda,” Inter Press Service notes (Yusufzai/Ebrahim, 12/20). The attacks “indicate a threat not only to workers but also to the effort to eradicate the disease — locally and globally,” Scientific American’s “Observations” blog adds (Harmon, 12/20).

International Community Condemns Attacks On Polio Workers In Pakistan

“U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling the killing of health workers trying to vaccinate Pakistani children against polio in a U.N.-backed campaign ‘cruel, senseless and inexcusable,'” the Associated Press reports, noting, “Ban said at his year-end news conference [on Wednesday] that the eight killed were among thousands across Pakistan ‘working selflessly to achieve the historic goal of polio eradication'” (12/19). Similarly, “[t]he World Health Organization and UNICEF in their statements have expressed their strong commitment and support to the Government of Pakistan and the people of Pakistan in their efforts to rid the country of polio and other diseases,” Pakistan Today writes (12/19).

Nigeria Can Eradicate Polio With International Support

“Nigeria is one of only three countries — along with Afghanistan and Pakistan — that remains blighted by polio,” Aliko Dangote, founder and CEO of the Dangote Group and chair of the Dangote Foundation, writes in a Project Syndicate opinion piece. He notes Nigeria is “one of Africa’s most developed countries,” “the largest recipient of foreign direct investment in Africa,” home to “thriving Nigerian businesses,” and “will soon surpass South Africa to become Africa’s largest economy.” However, “Nigerians cannot hope to lead Africa, economically or otherwise, while neglecting to eliminate preventable diseases like polio,” he writes.

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