Editorial, Opinion Pieces Address Effects Of Health Worker Murders In Pakistan On Polio Eradication

Several news outlets published opinion pieces regarding the recent murders of polio vaccination and other aid workers in Pakistan. The following summarizes two opinion pieces and one editorial on the issue.

  • Lancet: “The effect of the killing of polio vaccine workers in Pakistan will have repercussions for its neighbor Afghanistan, which, together with Pakistan itself and Nigeria, is one of the remaining polio-endemic countries,” and “[o]ther neighboring countries have also been put at risk,” a Lancet editorial states. “To eradicate polio, the work that the brave polio health workers died for must be continued in 2013,” the Lancet writes, concluding, “Furthermore, it is imperative not only to ensure immunization workers’ security, but also to address the determinants behind the shooting of polio health workers — i.e., to win the hearts of the public, to go beyond the ‘polio only’ agenda, and to enhance polio vaccination’s integration into the routine health and immunization program” (1/5).
  • Jeffrey Kluger, TIME: “Thanks to aggressive global vaccination programs led by Rotary International, UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and, most recently, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the year just beginning could be [polio’s] last,” Kluger, senior editor at TIME, writes. He notes the killing of the health care and aid workers, as well as a Taliban-imposed ban on polio vaccinations in certain regions of Pakistan. “Using children as viral suicide bombers this way is a new — and grotesque — form of bioterrorism, and the world, for now at least, is not standing idly by,” Kluger states, noting the efforts of governments and aid organizations. “The war with the poliovirus and its human defenders has been joined — and 2013 could be the year in which the climactic battles are fought,” he concludes (1/3).
  • Afiya Shehrbano Zia, Guardian: Zia, a feminist researcher, activist and author, “highlight[s] the ‘context’ that enabled such unprecedented violence against female health workers, ostensibly committed by militants other than the [Taliban in Pakistan],” she writes, adding, “I shall argue that it is not just the ‘conditions that create groups like the Taliban’ that require scrutiny, but that it is equally incumbent upon us to see how the narrative of religious militancy encourages, strengthens, colludes with and affords impunity to all forms of faith-based misogyny in Pakistan.” After a long analysis, she concludes that “the attacks by religious militants on women polio workers (and other women activists) must be seen in the context of the views, politics and policies of all Islamists on women’s health, sexuality, homosexuality, control over their bodies, mobility and gendered roles. Only then can we be assured of a more accurate analysis of gendered violence in Pakistan” (1/3).

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