Ploumen concerned about polio epidemic in Pakistan

In Pakistan Lilianne Ploumen, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, voiced her concern about the polio epidemic there. With 67 confirmed cases, the country currently leads the world in polio infections. Vaccination teams are unable to do their work in parts of Pakistan after being the targets of intimidation and violence by groups of Islamic extremists. In recent years 52 people have died as the result of attacks on vaccination workers, leaving UNICEF with no choice but to suspend its vaccination programme.

‘It is unacceptable that anti-polio drives have had to be stopped because of violence,’ said Ms Ploumen. ‘Hundreds of children will suffer unnecessarily because UNICEF has had to suspend its programme. Every child has the right to grow up in good health. I condemn the attacks on vaccination workers in Pakistan. It is unacceptable. Aid workers, and female health workers in particular, must be able to do their job to stop the epidemic. That’s only possible if polio teams have safe access to all regions of Pakistan. Getting this crippling disease under control here will help contain it in the rest of the world.’

Vaccination clinics

Earlier this month the World Health Organization (WHO) sounded the alarm on the re-emergence of polio infections around the world. Pakistan has been identified as a polio exporter in the region. As a result the Pakistani authorities have announced new measures to stop polio transmission, such as vaccination clinics at airports. Ms Ploumen urged that these be carried out quickly and effectively if polio is to be stopped.

Ms Ploumen said that, in these times, polio is an avoidable disease: ‘In fact, thanks to development work it’s practically been eradicated. Polio causes terrible suffering and deformities. There are no arguments to justify this sort of suffering when it could easily be prevented.’ Over 2011-2015 the Netherlands donated €200 million in support of the vaccination campaign run by UN organisation GAVI.