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August 10, 2019

Propaganda and polio


August 10, 2019

Propaganda can have a devastating impact. This is happening before our eyes even in this day and age in Pakistan, with parents across the country and especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa refusing to inoculate their children against the polio virus. In other worlds, these parents are willing to allow their children to become badly crippled rather than drink the amber drops which have eradicated polio from all countries of the world except Afghanistan and Pakistan and which could keep Pakistani children safe as well.

Five more polio cases were confirmed in KP on Tuesday. The prime minister’s focal person on polio eradication says the problem goes back to the incident in Peshawar when a fake or falsified social media video was posted showing children at a school in Masho Khel being rushed to a Peshawar hospital with serious complaints regarding reactions to the drug. The video had shown them fainting en masse after receiving the drops. It had all been fabricated. The results of this prank, or a devious effort to sabotage the polio campaign, have been disastrous. None of the children diagnosed with polio in KP on Tuesday had received the drops during previous drives. Severe resistance continues from parents, with some placing markers on their children’s hands themselves to show teams they had received the drops.

As a result, 53 cases of polio have been reported so far this year compared to last year’s figure of 12. Only eight cases were confirmed in 2017. Pakistan had stood so tantalisingly close to wiping out a disease that has disfigured and maimed tens of thousands of children in the country. Now the battle must begin all over again. The same propaganda is also perpetuated through word of mouth stories about polio drops causing harmful affects with even the mainstream media running material suggesting this is true. Such programming should be treated as a crime. The new cases in KP were reported from Bannu, North Waziristan and Charsadda. Some of those engaged in the faked video drama have been arrested. But the image stays in the minds of people, tying in with the misinformation imparted to them in the past. The situation is a horrendous one. Simply because people are told lies, their children could end up leading lives as disabled persons with few opportunities and fewer chances to succeed in an already harsh society. Drastic steps are needed and we need to pull, push and shove the polio campaign back on track before it is too late.

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