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Mass displacement in Pakistan hurts Afghan anti-polio effort.

KABUL (PAN): The mass displacement from Malakand division and FATA in Pakistan due to the ongoing unrest in the region bordering Afghanistan has been posing challenges towards polio eradication efforts in the country, the health ministry said on Monday. "Afghanistan and Pakistan, as one epidemiologic block for polio eradication, annually plan synchronized immunization campaigns since early 2000. There is always risk of polio importation for both countries.

Low polio immunization coverage in one country will increase the chance of polio importation into the other one," the ministry said in a statement o Monday. "Polio Eradication to be delayed due to denial of access to health, immunization services by people with no respect to Islamic and Humanitarian values in Afghanistan, Pakistan," the statement added.

The statement said that Afghanistan was 'very much concerned' over the intensified insecurity in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the FATA. "The prevailing insecurity in NWFP and FATA will definitely affect the coverage and quality of polio immunization activities in Pakistan.

As a result,Afghanistan will be affected by the influx of Pakistani refugees and Afghan returnees,who will probably bring polio virus with their unvaccinated children to Afghanistan," it added.

However, the minister of public health said that Afghanistan had intensified its efforts towards eradicating polio in the country, but the insecurity in Pakistan and some areas in southern and eastern Afghanistan will pose many challenges to Afghan efforts in stopping polio circulation in Afghanistan. "We appeal to all warring parties in Pakistan and Afghanistan to avail themselves of all opportunities so that health providers can reach children and vaccinate them against polio,the statement said,quoting Dr. SM Amin Fatimie,the Minister of Public Health,as saying.

In late April 2009,insecurity in NWFP and the FATA intensified, leading to further mass forced displacement of the civilian population. Between mid-2008 and the end of April 2009, at least 577,167 people fled their homes in NWFP, including the FATA. As of the end of April 2009,the intensified insecurity in southern Malakand Division has led to a further displacement of 1,206,203 people.

According to the latest registration information available, the current number of people displaced by the insecurity since 2008 is now 1,783,380.

Reports from the NWFP, including the FATA indicate that the people who have stayed in the areas where the situation has worsened are believed to be severely affected,and the prevailing security situation has severely constrained humanitarian workers' access to them.

To date,information from inside these areas is extremely limited. However, reports indicate that the insecurity has resulted in significant civilian casualties, restricted freedom of movement (including access to emergency health services),and devastated civilian infrastructure.

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Publication:Pajhwok Afghan News (Kabul, Afghanistan)
Date:May 26, 2009
Words:466
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