Taliban threats impede anti-polio campaign

July 17, 2012 at 1:04 AM
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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, July 17 (UPI) -- The Taliban have prevented Pakistan's nationwide immunization against polio from reaching children in the tribal areas, authorities said.

The Taliban threat will affect more than 240,000 children in North and South Waziristan and other tribal areas, Pakistan's News International reported.

The three-day anti-polio campaign began Monday throughout the country. However, in the tribal sections, regional Taliban groups have imposed a ban to protest U.S. drone strikes against suspected militants, the report said.

The Taliban groups warned health and political officials in their regions not to send their own polio teams to vaccinate children in their areas of control.

The federal government has expressed concern to local governors and urged them to initiate dialogue with the militant group to allow the campaign to proceed in their regions, the newspaper reported.

Dawn newspaper quoted sources as saying the political agent of North Waziristan has convened a jirga of local leaders to resolve the issue posed by the Taliban.

Officials said the tribal areas, which had recorded 11 of the 22 polio cases around the country so far this year, have been declared by the World Health Organization a potential threat to countries declared polio-free.

The Hindu newspaper said the current campaign had planned to immunize 34 million children under age 5.

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