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Polio Vaccination Resumes In Pakistan’s Swat Valley

“Authorities in Pakistan’s Swat Valley have resumed vaccinating children for polio, an act once banned by Taliban militants, now beaten back by an army offensive,” the Associated Press reports. The three-day campaign, which started on Monday, is targeting about 215,000 children, said government official Khurshid Khan.

“The Islamist militants, who began spreading their reign in the valley in 2007, had declared that vaccinating against the potentially crippling disease was un-Islamic because it was a foreign-funded campaign. Swat Taliban leader Maulana Fazullah said the vaccinations were a Western conspiracy to make Muslim children infertile,” the AP writes.

Yar Mohammad, a Swat resident, said people in the area welcomed the vaccinations. “The militants have been depriving our children of our basic right. It is our national responsibility to secure our kids against all diseases,” Mohammad said (Shahzad, 9/8).

Since the campaign resumed, six polio cases have been reported in the Swat valley, according to a health official, the Daily Times reports. He said the number of cases of the disease had risen in the district because of the lapse in vaccinations (9/9).

In related news, IRIN examines vaccination efforts that target Pakistanis who move between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which can “pose serious challenges to those trying to eradicate polio.” According to the news service, “Many people have relatives in Afghanistan and travel between the two countries is common. Over the past few months some two million people have been displaced by fighting in northwestern Pakistan, and the big cities have long attracted people looking for work.” Immunization campaigns and border immunization points are trying to prevent the spread of the virus (9/8).

Also, officials at a recent City District Government Karachi meeting decided to ensure that 100 percent of children in the city receive polio vaccines, the Daily Times reports. A UNICEF representative and other local officials attended the meeting. To achieve the goal, UNICEF will work with the city government to develop a strategy (9/9).