Polio vaccinations in the dark ages

Published: July 16, 2012
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Every child deserves the basic right to be protected against preventable diseases while they are too young to fend for themselves. PHOTO: AFP

Every child deserves the basic right to be protected against preventable diseases while they are too young to fend for themselves. PHOTO: AFP Warlords in North and South Waziristan have banned polio vaccination campaigns from operating in their area.PHOTO: FILE

Pakistani children have it rough. They grow up in a country with a corrupt and incompetent government at the helm. They are inheriting a faltering economy and mountainous debt. The country isn’t as safe as it used to be, to put it mildly, and it doesn’t look like things will be improving soon.

To top it all of, rising crime rates, extortion, political violence and terrorism are now the accepted norm as well.

They can’t look forward to a proper healthcare system to take care of them when they are ill, nor can they expect a decent public education to be provided to them. They can’t rely on the government to assist them in the employment front, nor a welfare system that supports them until they are able to get up on their own feet and make a living for themselves.

It’s true that Pakistanis do not have high hopes or expectations from their government but what they should expect, in fact what they should demand, at the very least, is the assurance of the basic right of every child to be protected against preventable diseases while they are too young to fend for themselves. Diseases which have been eradicated from almost every corner of the world yet exists in our part of the world.

An American philosopher, John Dewey, said

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”

The authenticity of that statement is proving to be literally accurate for the children in the rural areas of Pakistan. Warlords in North and South Waziristan have banned polio vaccination campaigns from operating in their area. This has delivered a massive blow to all the efforts put in to eradicate the disease from the country.

These actions are putting at risk hundreds and thousands of innocent children across Pakistan. While truly astounding are the works of a depraved mind set, this can perhaps only be explained through the ignorance of the mullahs that have initiated the ban about the actual scope of the damage that will be caused.

But it wouldn’t be fair to blame it all on just the mullahs; the government is largely to blame as well.

Apart from being unable to assert its writ against armed zealots and prevent them from harming what is a vital project, the government has failed in its responsibility to properly educate the people of our country about polio.

Instead, conspiracy theories and ridiculous myths, such as the vaccination campaign is an attempt by the West to make the ‘believers’ infertile, are rife amongst the people. To be honest, Dr Shakeel Afridi and the Americans did not help the cause either.

It would have been impossible for such a ban to have taken place if people had actually been educated and made aware of the dangers of polio and other preventable diseases and the importance of its vaccinations. We must start educating our population about Polio and many other diseases that are curable and can be prevented. Pakistanis need to be told about the dangers and consequences of ignoring health aid.

My worry is that Pakistan is already slipping into the dark ages; electricity crisis, gas crisis, fuel crisis etc. Unless education is made a priority for our people, this country might pass the point of no return.

Read more by Mani here or follow him on Twitter @BallerinaAngry

Mani Khawaja

Mani Khawaja

A journalist and musician. He tweets @manikhawaja88 (twitter.com/manikhawaja88)

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