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Fighting polio under shadow of guns

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It is polio vaccination day in Bajaur Agency, a subdivision of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Pakistan along its border with Afghanistan. Parents line up, and as the vaccination team gets ready an unusual sight strikes one’s eye. Armed security guards protect the polio team.
 
This is a new strategy that the Pakistan government has adopted to protect health workers from Taliban militants. FATA is one of the most challenging places to administer polio vaccine.
 
The Taliban have banned polio vaccination in the region since June 2012. The militants have killed 71 people in polio-related incidents since December 2012.
 
Despite regular polio vaccination campaigns since 1994, Pakistan registered the highest number of polio cases at 306 in 2014. In 2015 alone, four cases of polio have already been detected in the neighbouring Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region.
 
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says Pakistan, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria are the three countries responsible for the movement of the poliovirus to countries long declared polio-free.
 
Altaf Bosan, head of Pakistan’s vaccination programme says, “A committee comprising of police, army and health officials have been planned that will ensure full protection of the vaccinators. For each three-day door-to-door campaigns, about 5,000 police personnel will be deployed.”
 
WHO recommends 95 per cent vaccination among children under an age of five.  The Pakistani government has been claiming that they have already reached the WHO-recommended target, even though more cases continue to emerge. 
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