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Polio Continues To Afflict Pakistan's Baluchistan Region

A Pakistani health worker gives a polio vaccination to a child. (file photo)
Health officials in the southern Pakistani province of Baluchistan say new polio cases have been reported across the region despite repeated antipolio campaigns, RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal reports.

Provincial Health Secretary Asmatullah Kakar told RFE/RL the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) is asking Pakistani officials why polio cases are on the rise despite the huge amount of money that has been spent on vaccinations.

Kakar said there were now 62 cases there of the viral disease, also known as infantile paralysis, which can affect nerves and lead to partial or full paralysis.

"One reason is [parents'] refusal [to have their children vaccinated], and, secondly, some areas are not accessible," Kakar said. "This is the responsibility of every individual, each religious and tribal elder, and only then can we control it."

Kakar said his department has demoted several district health officers for poor performance and deployed new officers in an effort to control polio's spread.

Antipolio campaigner Abdul Wahab Atal says people are not heeding the call to ensure that their children are administered the vaccine drops.

"Some people are not cooperating for religious reasons, because they are exposed to propaganda about the drops, while others have doubts about the effectiveness of the drops," Atal said. "In their view: How can a few drops of liquid help eradicate a serious disease?"

Villagers in remote areas say they don't know about the campaign, but some parents appear to be resisting the effort.

"When the polio teams visit our house, my parents tell them there are no children in the house," 5-year-old Saifullah, who says his parents refused to give him polio drops the last time a health team visited their house, told RFE/RL.