Jahalat: Polio Vaccination Campaign Facing Threats

Posted on May 4, 2007
Filed Under >Darwaish, Education, Health & Disease, Religion, Society
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Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. It invades the nervous system, and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours. There are thousands of Polio patients in Pakistan whose lives have been severely affected by this frustrating disease. Since 1988 when a worldwide campaign against Polio was launched, the number of new Polio cases in Pakistan has also decreased significantly and government has been trying its best to make Pakistan a Polio free country. Both government and NGO sectors are receiving substantial funding from United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization (WHO)

However, last few anti-polio campaigns are facing stiff resistance from local religious leaders in a number of areas in NWFP and FATA. During anti-polio campaign in February, the parents of 24,000 children in northern Pakistan refused to allow health workers to administer polio vaccinations, mostly due to rumors that the harmless vaccine was an American plot to sterilize innocent Muslim children. Some of the local religious leaders in the Swat, Bajaur and Malakand agencies are telling the people not to get their children vaccinated since the practice is un-Islamic, and that those that die of polio would be considered martyrs. The disinformation – spread by extremist clerics using mosque loudspeakers and illegal radio stations, and by word of mouth – has caused a sharp jump in polio cases in Pakistan and hit global efforts to eradicate the debilitating disease.

There are about 12 illegal FM radio channels in just Swat valley only and almost all of them are used by religious clerics for the propagation of their own interpretation of Islam and religious thoughts. Every sermon includes something on girl’s education and anti-polio campaign. This is Jahalat at its best and some of the local religious leaders in their anti-American sentiment and personal interests have gone so blind that they are putting thousands of innocent children’s future at stake. The lack of awareness among ordinary people is also playing its part. Although most of the mainstream religious leaders have publicly condemned these acts but the government of NWFP seems to be struggling to use an iron hand against these people and their activities. Aid workers and health officials in FATA and NWFP are now carrying with them copies of Fatwa’s signed by Qazi Hussain Ahmad and Moulana Fazal Ur Rehman in favor of vaccination that has reassured many doubters.

The latest campaign against polio vaccination has been launched by local clerics, including Tehreek Nifaz Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) leader Maulana Fazlullah and his supporters in the Malakand Agency, Bajaur and Swat. They have been “warning” people during sermons in mosques or through illegal FM radio stations not to administer polio drops to their children since it was against religious norms and brought infertility. Maulana Fazlullah is himself suffering from Polio and is also the son-in-law of Maulana Sufi Muhammad, ex-chief of the TNSM. Because of this propaganda and fear of militants like Fazlullah, almost 4,000 children were not vaccinated in Swat only. A journalist Behroz Khan, who met Maulana Fazlullah, writes in KyberWatch:

Wearing a black turban and war fatigues, controversial cleric Maulana Fazlullah met journalists on Tuesday at his under-construction headquarters on the bank of the Swat River. Apart from so many controversies surround the Maulana, including his opposition to girls education, campaign against polio drops, motivating the youth for Jihad, encouraging men to grow beard and favoring closure of music shops, he is at the centre of criticism for illegally occupying hundreds of Kanals of land on the bank of the river, which is collective property (shamilaat) of Maam Derai and Koza Bandai villages (Ah, looks like its all about illegally occupying land in the name of religion. Lal Masjid rings a bell?).

Defending his opposition to girls education, the Maulana said that women should not go outside their homes, so there is no need to send girls to schools in violation of “the strict Islamic rule of Purdah”. “The only permission for a woman to go outside is to see a doctor in case of bad health. There is no need to impart engineering and scientific knowledge to women at all,” he said when asked whether he was in favor of sending girls to schools even in Purdah.

Being himself a victim of polio disease, the Maulana is preaching against administering polio drops to children, saying that there is no room in Shariah to go for treatment when the disease has not affected some one. Furthermore, he said that polio drops are disastrous for women fertility and expedite the process of puberty of girls. “Any one dies of polio is martyr because this is a contagious disease.

Unfortunately, awareness campaigns against this Jahalat have also become a very risky business these days. According to this story by DAWN, this year on Feb 16, Dr. Abdul Ghani Khan along with three other health officials were killed in a remote control bomb explosion when they were coming back from a Polio awareness campaign. The three officials with Dr. Sahab were critically injured in that incident but later died according to this Daily Times report.

Dr. Ghani, a surgeon, was very actively trying to raise awareness against Polio in Bajaur Agency and nearby villages. He was apparently coming back a successful meeting with local clerics. Its really sad that their sacrifice got only one-line news and nobody bothered to ask government to punish the people behind it. According to WHO officials, health workers had been facing serious threats by the locals during the anti-polio campaigns and the authorities were being contacted for provision of security but not much has been done. Recently aid workers in Bannu, near North Waziristan, were sent a letter and a 500 rupee (£4.50) note. “The letter said they had a choice. They could either stop work or buy their own coffin.” I hope that government pays special attention to security arrangements this year and the vaccination campaign goes smoothly.

I had this post planned since February but my laziness always got in the way. But last night when I saw this latest news story in GEO about militants successfully stopping a vaccination campaign in Swat area, I just had to write about it. The harsh reality is that Pakistan has now truly become Masailistaan and even after 60 years, we are still struggling to solve even basic issues. Its so depressing to see the number of issues that can easily be resolved just by spreading awareness and providing basic education to people and yet, we are unable to do even that effectively.

The only hope is people like Dr. Abdul Ghani Khan who are willing to sacrifice their lives so that our future how can we help the artists or others who do a great service for Pakistan but live their life in misery or their families face hardships after they die. I think we can also start by doing something good for the families of these four unsung heroes. They are the people who inspire and motivate thousands of ordinary people to do whatever they can to fight Jahalat in any form. My tribute to Dr. Khan and his three colleagues who gave their lives away for a noble cause. “Jihad against Jihalat” is the real Jihad that we need today and this is what our religious leaders should promote.

Background information about Polio:

According to WHO sources, poliomyelitis is an acute viral infection of the nervous system. Worldwide more than half of infections are in children under five. One in two hundred infections leads to permanent paralysis, usually in the legs. In 5-10% of these cases the victims die when the breathing muscles are paralyzed.

Since the launch of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988 the number of reported cases worldwide has fallen from 350,000 to 1,968 – a decrease of over 99%. Today it remains endemic in four countries: Nigeria, India, Afghanistan and Pakistan (there are 33,000 polio patients in Pakistan). In 1988 affected countries numbered 125. While there remains no cure for polio the progress towards its eradication is due to widespread use of polio vaccines. By 2002 the WHO had certified 124 countries polio-free.

More than 2 billion children have been immunized against the disease since 1988. The WHO estimates that because of the initiative five million fewer people have been paralyzed by the disease.

64 responses to “Jahalat: Polio Vaccination Campaign Facing Threats”

  1. zain maqsood says:

    i think it is a shameful act to keep parents in the state of ignorance and to keep themselves also by the so called religious leaders that they even don’t know that this is basic right of every chaild to step up on his own foot to fight with the basic necessity of life to take part in the country’s progress.

  2. sarah sarban says:

    [quote post=”693″]
    The blind faith on libral values and institutes look taboo amid same blind running on paradigm found around,mass inoculation of polio vaccine must be carefully evaluated ,the cruel corportae lust of profit taking should not be ignored,in uk we still have Thalidomide awesome memories,
    WHO is not a funding agency,she rely on her donors,click to be induced by….
    In NSSM 200, Henry Kissinger stated that no single approach would “solve” the population problem. Multiple and seemingly unconnected approaches are also less likely to attract attention.

    The World Health Organization has a twenty year history of developing contraceptive vaccines which work by creating immunity to the body’s own fertility hormone, human chorionic gonadotrophin (HcG). (1) A BBC documentary program entitled Horizon: The Human Laboratory aired 5 November 1995, revealed how the W.H.O developed vaccines for sterilizing women by the mid 1990’S. They got caught giving it to women without informed consent in the Philippines by putting in the tetanus shots. (2) After the recipients of the vaccine started having miscarriages a study conducted by the Philippine Medical Association on behalf of the Philippine Department of Health revealed that almost 20 percent of the tetanus vaccine sampled positive for HcG. (3)

    Dr. Archie Kalokerinos is a Life Fellow of the Royal Society for Health, a Fellow of the International Academy of Preventive Medicine, Fellow of the Australasian College of Biomedical Scientists, Fellow of the Hong Kong Medical Technology Association, and a Member of the New York Academy of Sciences. In 1978 he was awarded the A.M.M.(Australian Medal of Merit) for ‘outstanding scientific research’. On the subject of vaccines he comments:

    My final conclusion after forty years or more in this business [medicine] is that the unofficial policy of the World Health Organization and the unoffical policy of the ‘Save the Children’s Fund’ and… [other vaccine promoting] organizations is one of murder and genocide… I cannot see any other possible explanation… You cannot immunize sick children, malnourished children, and expect to get away with it. You’ll kill far more children than would have died from natural infection.”It was similar with the measles vaccination. They went through Africa, South America and elsewhere, and vaccinated sick and starving children… They thought they were wiping out measles, but most of those susceptible to measles died from some other disease that they developed as a result of being vaccinated. The vaccination reduced their immune levels and acted like an infection. Many got septicaemia, gastro-enteritis, etc, or made their nutritional status worse and they died from malnutrition. So there were very few susceptible infants left alive to get measles. It’s one way to get good statistics, kill all those that are susceptible, which is what they literally did.
    1,Gordon L. Ada (Editor) P. D. Griffin (Editor), Vaccines for Fertility Regulation:The Assessment of Their Safety and Efficacy, Cambridge University Press, ISBN:0521392527, July 1991.
    2,. Garth L. Nicolson Ph.D. et al, The Pathogenesis and Treatment of Mycoplasmal Infections, Antimicrobics and Infectious Disease Newsletter (Elsevier Science) 1999; 17(11): 81-88.
    3,Barbara Starfield, Is US Health Really the Best in the World? JAMA. 2000;284:483-485. [/quote]

  3. sohail ahmad says:

    There are different standards to understand things we see there are a lot of people who got knowledge but not the real understandings and wisdom,this is a great tragedy with us.I request to all those who got the knowledge and wisdom,they should try to do good for their innocent people otherwise its not good for all.Criticism should lead to something productive,otherwise it is just a deluge of bitter and scornful words.

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