There are only three countries in the world in which Polio, the highly infectious viral disease that can cause permanent paralysis in a matter of hours, remains prominent: Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. And, unfortunately, there are terrorist groups in these three countries who aim to keep it that way.
On Tuesday, two gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire on two female nurses who were administering Polio vaccines in the village of Bedh Der on the outskirts of Peshawar in the northwest region Pakistan. The two men killed one of the health workers and critically injured the other.
The link between the focalized attack and a larger terrorist threat stems from a repeated history of Polio crisis attacks and from a growing skepticism of disease vaccination following the U.S. fake treatment scheme to collect DNA samples from residents within the Pakistani bin Laden compound in 2011.
Four months ago, Nigerian Fundamentalist Islamic terrorist organization Boko Haram, a name which translates to “Western education is sin,” shot and killed nine women who were administering the vaccination in Northern Nigeria. And Tuesday wasn’t the first time an attack on the Polio treatment surfaced in Pakistan, either. Last December, gunmen fatally injured five women immunizing children in the adjoining Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province. The deaths forced the United Nations and the Pakistani government to suspend their multi-billion dollar anti-Polio work in the country until there was a strong investigation and regrouping of the project.
The Taliban, Pakistan’s most prominent terrorist organization, has not shied from articulating its opposition to the westernized vaccination. Last June, a Taliban commander in northwest Pakistan announced a verbal ban on Polio vaccines for children in the region contingent upon the United States’ use of drone strikes in the region. His threat is estimated to affect over 280,000 living in these tribal areas if realized by all parties included.
Of course, there is no aspect of Islam that deters advancements in medical aid, but fundamentalist manipulation of religious texts to thwart all westernizing culture continues to fuel these domestic attacks. The United Nations, with primary involvement from the United States, must reconfigure its plan to solve the Polio epidemic in these terrorist-laden countries and to preserve the lives of these (primarily female) health workers jeopardizing everything to administer a vaccine ideologically unwanted in these particular countries. Drone strike policies are frequently reevaluated, and while the U.S. should never heed to terrorists’ demands, the 280,000 children prone to the Polio disease should now be an added factor to foreign policy discussion in these dynamic areas of the world.
Worldwide, cases of death and paralysis from Polio have been reduced to less than 1,000 last year, from 350,000 worldwide in 1988. It’s time to rid the world completely of this lethal disease, terrorist-ruled area or not.