Polio: Pakistan polio outbreak hits record high

  • 4 October 2014
  • From the section Asia
A Pakistani child receives a polio vaccination drops from a health worker in Rawalpindi - 8 April 2014 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Pakistan is one of three countries where polio is endemic despite huge investment in vaccination schemes

Pakistan has recorded its highest number of polio cases for 15 years, with health officials blaming the rise on attacks on immunisation teams.

The number of new cases in 2014 so far is 202, exceeding the 199 cases in 2001 but short of the 558 cases in 1999.

Most of the infections are in the north-western tribal region where militants have targeted health teams.

Militants there accuse doctors of being spies and say the vaccinations are part of a Western plot to sterilise Muslims.

Suspicions over the programmes worsened after the US was accused of using a fake vaccination programme during its tracking of al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011.

Since December 2012, about 60 people, including health workers and police providing security to medical teams, have been killed by Taliban militants targeting polio teams.

The BBC's Shaimaa Khalil in Islamabad says the rise in cases is hugely embarrassing to Pakistan.

The country has failed to curb the disease despite massive investment on immunisation programmes by the international community, she adds.

Earlier this year, the World Health Organization imposed travel restrictions on the country meaning all Pakistanis must now carry proof of vaccination before travelling abroad.

Pakistan is one of three countries where polio is endemic - the other two being Afghanistan and Nigeria.

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