Wednesday, September 4

Pakistan’s polio war

This was a painful article to read.


Just this bit was painful

This is especially true among Pashtun parents like Usman. A father of four living in the Karachi slum of Bhains Colony, he contracted polio as an infant in the early 1980s. It has left him visibly disabled, his loping gait the result of an almost useless right leg that he must lock out with a rigidly tensed right hand at every step. As a polio victim himself, he insisted that his eldest children be vaccinated. But by the time workers came to inoculate his youngest child, Musharaf, reports of Dr Afridi’s activities on behalf of the CIA had reached him.

“If the incident in Abbottabad did not happen,” he admitted ruefully, speaking of his fellow Pashtuns in general, “and these rumours didn’t spread to us, we would have continued the vaccinations as we had been.” But Usman refused the vaccine drops for Musharaf, and one morning in January the two-year-old woke crying and unable to move his leg. “I was trying to get him to sit and I remember what my mother told me: ‘When you were little I was trying to get you to stand and you couldn’t stand.’” His face is pained as he recounts the episode. “With my mother’s words in my mind I tried to make him stand, but he couldn’t and it hit me hard – that, God forbid, something has happened to him.” Just weeks after the deaths of those vaccination workers, the young child with a winning smile had become Pakistan’s first confirmed polio case of 2013.

“I know if I had given him the vaccine this wouldn’t have happened,” Usman confesses, admonishing himself. “You shouldn’t have been fooled by people.” I follow him as he clambers slowly down the rough concrete stairs out of his house and stops to watch a hobbling Musharaf join a group of children playing with a pink balloon.

What can you say? What can you do? just one of the little tragedies that we have to thank so many people from, ranging from Obama to Osama.

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