Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Getting around the Taliban ban on vaccines

For a long time the Taliban have imposed a ban against vaccinations. They believed that the vaccinations would leave their young boys impotent. So for many years their children were at grave risk of diseases such as polio, measles, hepatitis and more. 

One local NGO has found a way around the ban, and it began by cooperating with the Islamists. From the Inter Press Service, writer Ashfaq Yusufzai describes the effort.
Earlier this month officials mounted an offensive against the ban. The government enlisted a local NGO, the National Research and Development Foundation, and religious scholars to hold talks with the outlawed jihadist outfit Ansar ul Islam (AI) to negotiate the terms of a vaccination programme.
The NGO began facilitating the vaccination on Sept. 4, an upbeat Dr. Aftab Akbar Durrani, social sector secretary of the FATA, told IPS.
He added that AI’s cooperation had enabled 95 percent of the children in the Tirah area to receive the vaccination.
“It is a major breakthrough, as many (previous) efforts to vaccinate children in the Taliban-controlled areas had failed,” officials told the English-language Dawn newspaper, crediting the organisation with protecting 32,641 children from polio.
Officials added that 11,626 children also received the vaccine against measles, while another 3,889 newborns and month-old infants were vaccinated against five other ailments between Sept. 4 and 6.
“Ansar ul Islam and religious leaders attached to the group understand that the poliovirus can cause lifelong disability so they are ready to support the initiative,” according to officials. Only four families refused to vaccinate their children, but efforts are currently underway to convince them otherwise.
“Ansar ul Islam played a vital role in countering community refusals,” officials told IPS

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