Some Islamists, including Taliban militants, have taken terrorism to a new level in Pakistan this week. Several people working to vaccinate the children of Pakistan against Polio were shot. Six of the workers were killed in the attacks. It is not precisely clear who is responsible for the attacks. Pakistani health officials are calling for the vaccination to continue, some noting that the real danger to local children is not from the vaccine, but from the disease it prevents. But the World Health Organization has halted its efforts in the wake of the fatal shootings. Others are calling for the life-saving vaccination program to continue.
Polio has been reduced to only impacting three countries after 2 ½ decades of work:Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. The worlds first service club, Rotary International, began a massive effort to eradicate polio from the world 25 years ago. In recent years, matching funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have added extra emphasis to the push against the disease.
In view of this week’s violent attack on the effort, Laurens Rotary Club President Jonathan Irick is calling on local Rotarians to prayerfully remember those working on the program in Pakistan.
Irick told us he realizes many here in theUSdon’t realize how dreadful Polio was here inAmerica:
“Many people here in the United Statesdon’t even know what Polio can do. I personally know, my grandmother had polio when she was a young child. And so I’ve seen what Polio can do. Unfortunately, you’re right, the factions over there are trying to say this is a way of making the Muslin children sterile, and so they are doing their best to try to stop this from happening. And unfortunately, we know what the devastating consequences are of not having this vaccine given to the children.”
Jonathan Irick expressed concern about the situation with the vaccination program:
“We definitely feel a sadness about the loss. One of Rotary’s goals is to eradicate Polio. Rotary International has been working really hard at it. There’s three countries left, and Pakistan is one of them. We have a lot of Rotarians and other organizations, including the World Health Organization and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that have put money into this Polio eradication effort. It really saddens us when we hear something like this has happened.”
The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Raja Perves Ashraf, said the polio campaign needs to go on in Pakistan, saying “we cannot and would not allow polio to wreck havoc on the lives of our children.” The statement from the Prime Minister noted that Pakistan had 20,000 polio cases in 1994, but that vigorous vaccination efforts had brought the number down to 56 this year.
Rotarians in Laurens,Clinton and Fountain Inn are continuing to provide financial assistance to the world-wide polio eradication effort inPakistan, AfghanistanandNigeria.