Taliban Renounces War on Anti-Polio Workers

Taliban renounces war on anti-polio workers from:
The Telegraph - Zubair Babakarkhail in Kabul and Dean Nelson in

New Delhi -3:02PM BST 13 May 2013

The Taliban has ended its war on polio vaccination workers and

admitted immunization is the only way to protect children from

the disease, its leadership said in a statement issued today.


The announcement comes just weeks after the Afghan government
launched a new campaign to immunise more than eight million
 children between six monthsand five years old throughout the
country. It said it had trained 46,000 volunteers to conduct the
 campaign which is funded by the American aid agency
 USAID, the World Health Organisation and Unicef.
Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria are the three remaining
 countries in the world where polio remains a serious threat,
 but efforts to eradicate the disease have been
 sabotaged by the Taliban and other Islamic militants who have
 assassinated immunisation volunteers in all three countries.
Eleven polio workers were killed in Pakistan last year,
 including five women who were shot dead in Karachi in December
 last year. Earlier this year a police officer protecting vaccination
 campaigners was shot by motorcycle gunmen in Khyber
 Pukhtunkhwa. In Afghanistan, a 16 year old girl involved
 in an anti-polio vaccination campaign in Kapisa province was shot
 six times in the stomach outside her home last December
and died later in hospital. In March this year the Afghan
 government was forced to abandon its polio vaccination
 campaign in Nuristan province where, it said, Taliban
opposition had made it impossible.

Opposition to the vaccination programme has been driven
 by conservative clerics who claim it is a plot to sterilise
 Muslim children, and Taliban commanders who fear
 it is being used to gather intelligence in their strongholds.
 Those fears increased following the 2011 killing of al-Qaeda
 leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad
where Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi was arrested for running
 a fake hepatitis vaccination campaign to help the CIA collect
DNA samples of members of the bin Laden family.
But in a sudden U-turn the Taliban leadership issued a
 statement offering its support for polio eradication campaigns as
 long as foreigners were not involved and that all volunteers respected
 local Islamic culture. "According to the latest international medicine
 science, the polio disease can onlybe cured by preventive measures
 ie the anti-polio drops and the vaccination of children
 against this disease. "The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan supports
 and lends a hand to all those programs which works for the health
 care of the helpless people of our country," said a stament
 issued by the 'Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan'.
But it warned the World Health Organisation and Unicef to employ
 only "unbiased people"in a campaign "harmonised with the regional
 conditions, Islamic values and local cultural traditions."
It also ordered its fighters to give polio workers "all necessary support".
Mohammad Younas Fakor, an independent political analyst, said the
 move was aimed at boosting its popularity among Afghans as the
 withdrawal of foreign troops draws closer. "I think the Taliban looks
 towards 2014, and they know that they will not have any other
 option rather than coming to the political process," he said.