The Taliban is refusing to administer polio vaccines to children until President Obama suspends the drone program that has killed nearly 3,000 people along the Pakistan/Afghanistan border, including over 30 in the month of June.
Just days before the scheduled inoculation of 161,000 children, the tribal leader in North Waziristan issued the edict cancelling the event. As readers will recognize, North Waziristan has been the site of many if not most of the airstrikes carried out by the American drones ostensibly in search of “militants” suspected of hiding out in that mountainous region.
The order was issued by Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur. Bahadur said the final decision to ban vaccinations was made by the shura-e-mujahedeen, a coalition council representing several factions operating in the area, including the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
A story published by the New York Times reports the health risks resulting from the Taliban’s policy statement.
The announcement, made over the weekend, is a blow to polio vaccination efforts in Pakistan, one of just three countries where the disease is still endemic, accounting for 198 new cases last year — the highest rate in the world, followed by Afghanistan and Nigeria.
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Photo of Pakistani child getting a polio vaccine: AP Images