Polio Crisis Deepens in Pakistan, With New Cases and Killings

Polio Crisis Deepens in Pakistan, With New Cases and Killings

This article was originally posted by the New York Times.

LONDON — Pakistan’s polio crisis has reached new depths this year, health officials say, intensified by a deadly mix of ruthless militant violence, large-scale refugee displacement and political chaos that has cemented the country’s role as the central global incubator of a disease that other conflict-torn countries have managed to hold in check.

The number of new Pakistani polio cases this year hit 260 this week, four times as many as at the same point last year, making a mockery of promises by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other politicians from across the spectrum to halt the galloping progress of the disease.

Even as domestic vaccination drives and extensive international aid have put huge numbers of anti-polio workers in the field, Pakistan’s militants have seen it as an opportunity to strike at symbols of authority, portraying the workers as agents in a sinister Western plot. On Wednesday, four more health workers were gunned down, bringing the death toll among anti-polio workers to 65 since the first targeted attack in December 2012.

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