A Commander of the Taliban Bans Polio Vaccines for Children

PolioVaccine

Target: Anthony Lake, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

Goal: Provide necessary polio vaccines to thousands of Pakistani children by helping to lift the ban imposed by the Pakistani Taliban.

Just days before 161,000 children in North Waziristan were set to receive polio vaccines, a Pakistani Taliban commander has intervened in order to ban the inoculations from taking place. North Waziristan, a mountainous region in northwestern Pakistan, is no stranger to the effects of polio—Pakistan is one of three countries in the area where the disease remains a constant concern. Last year alone saw the emergence of 198 new cases, giving the region the highest rate of polio in the world.

According to Hafiz Gul Bahadur, the commander who issued the cancellation, polio vaccinations will be halted until drone attacks headed by the US’s Central Intelligence Agency cease in the area. This all comes on the heels of a tribal court’s decision to convict and sentence the controversial Dr. Shakil Afridi, a Pakistani doctor who ran a vaccination campaign in Abbottabad, to 33 years in prison in connection with supplying American intelligence agencies with information about Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts (the information would go on to be key in the SEAL team’s mission to take out the al-Qaeda leader).

Out of fear that the work would bring unwanted spy activity into the region, the necessary medication will be unable to reach thousands of children in need. According to UNICEF, 143,000 children under the age of 5 have already received their vaccinations earlier this month; however, in order for the drugs to be effective, they must be taken repeatedly over a span of time.  Without proper preventative care, many foreign and domestic aid workers worry that additional polio cases will be inevitable and the children will be the ones who suffer the most.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mr. Lake,

Right now, over 150,000 children await the vital polio vaccines in North Waziristan; however, a commander of the Pakistani Taliban has placed a ban on all such necessary medicine—threatening the present and future safety of the children.

Out of concern for their own safety, aid workers in the region have had to put on hold their distribution of vaccines in order to accommodate for the demands of the Taliban organization.

With so many and so much at stake, this area (this issue) must not be forgotten. I urge you to make the health and safety of these children a primary mission of UNICEF.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

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