Peacekeeping: The Killer Angels

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August 4, 2007: Radical Islam continues to kill people in places you never hear of. Islamic clerics in Pakistan and Nigeria continue to push the idea that vaccinations for diseases are a Western plot to poison Moslem children. This particular fantasy has been rattling around for nearly a decade, and has prevented the UN from wiping out polio. Like small pox (which was wiped out in the 1970s), once there are no people with polio, the disease is gone for good (it can only survive in a human host). The Islamic clerics urging parents not to vaccinate their children against polio, are providing the disease with hosts, and keeping it going. Last year, 24,000 children were not vaccinated in northern Pakistan because of this paranoid fantasy.

In Afghanistan, it was even worse, with 125,000 children denied vaccination by Taliban terrorists (who also attack the vaccination teams) As a result, at least 40 cases of polio were confirmed last year in Pakistan, and eleven so far this year. In Afghanistan, there were 31 cases last year, and 19 so far this year. Nigeria had 1,124 cases last year, and 562 cases so far this year.

The victims (usually children) either die, or are crippled for life. When confronted by angry parents, the clerics say that it's "God's will" that the kid is dead or crippled from polio. Most Moslem parents accept that, because Islam means, literally, "submission," although this process is often helped along by a bearded guy with a gun.

While the UN lends its name to the polio eradication process, most of the actual work, including finding people who can convince the misguided clerics to back off, is done by a coalition of charitable organization. The lead outfit in all this is Rotary International (the Rotarians), which not only raises most of the money, but provides many of the volunteers, and skilled negotiators to deal with the government, and religious, officials that get in the way of eradicating polio.

Not all of the problems are religious. There are still remote parts of the world where getting the polio vaccine to all the children in an area is very difficult. India, for example, had 676 cases of polio last year, and 121 so far this year, mainly because of logistical problems.

 


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