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Drone Attacks Undermine Anti Polio Drive in Khyber Agency

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Drone Attacks undermine Polio drive in Khyber AgencyThe recent US drone attacks in Tirah Valley of Khyber Agency have undermined polio-eradication efforts in the militancy-hit areas where militants have backtracked from their commitment and asked the anti-polio vaccination teams to stay away from the region.

Drone Attacks undermine Polio drive in Khyber AgencyBARA: The recent US drone attacks in Tirah Valley of Khyber Agency have undermined polio-eradication efforts in the militancy-hit areas where militants have backtracked from their commitment and asked the anti-polio vaccination teams to stay away from the region.

This was revealed by an official of the National Research and Development Foundation (NRDF) in Khyber Agency on Thursday.

The NRDF launched a project titled ‘Involvement of ulema in EPI’ with the financial support of the Unicef to make polio vaccination campaigns possible and acceptable in the inaccessible areas of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

With 36 confirmed polio cases, Khyber Agency was declared the most polio-affected district of the country in 2010. More than 100,000 children under the age of five years in Tirah valley and Bara sub-division have not been vaccinated for the last 17 months due to the military operation and militancy.

Attaullah, NRDF coordinator, said they had convinced the militants belonging to Lashkar-e-Islam (LI) to allow polio teams in Naki, Mastak, Wachi Wani, and Mehraban Killay in Tirah valley in the beginning of December 2010.

“We had finalised all arrangements to vaccinate around 10,000 children in the three-day campaign scheduled for the end of December, he said. But the three drone attacks on the militant headquarters in the valley on December 16 and 17 changed everything and we were asked by the enraged militants not to send polio vaccination teams to the area due to security reasons,” he said.

Around three dozens of militants from LI and TTP including Commander Ibne Ameen hailing from Swat were killed in three US drone attacks.

He said that LI commander in Naki area Sabeel Khan had extended all-out support and promised to provide guards to the polio teams during the campaign. But after the drone attacks when he was contacted in connection with the upcoming campaign, he told the NRDF agency coordinator that the atmosphere in the valley was full of anger and every persons particularly outsiders and government officials were monitored and thought to be the US spies by the militants, Attaullah revealed.

“In the aftermath of drone attacks the intervention of polio workers in LI-controlled Tirah valley may put their lives at risk and at present it is better not to mention polio campaign in the area,” he quoted Commander Sabeel as saying during his telephonic chat with him on December 20.

President Asif Zardari formally launched the National Emergency Action Plan 2011 for polio eradication on January 24, vowing to make Pakistan polio-free. Besides federal and provincial ministers, parliamentarians, Political Agent Khyber Shafeerullah Khan and other civil administrators from Fata where high number of polio cases were reported in 2010, attended the launching ceremony.

Talking to this scribe, polio coordinator for Khyber Agency Dr Shafiq said that involvement of ulema in anti-polio campaign by NRDF had reduced refusal cases to a great extent in Jamrud and Landikotal tehsils. He conceded that the proposed anti-polio campaign was halted due to the recent drone attacks in Tirah valley.

Original Article can be Viewed at: The News

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