Threatwatch: Taliban action risks polio resurgence
Threatwatch is your early warning system for global dangers, from nuclear peril to deadly viral outbreaks. Debora MacKenzie highlights the threats to civilisation – and suggests solutions
If anything qualifies as a threat worth watching, it is the resurgence of polio, one of the most feared diseases of the twentieth century.
The long campaign to eradicate polio was threatened this week by the actions of Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a Taliban commander in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan. Bahadur banned a campaign to vaccinate 161,000 children against polio, until the US calls off drone strikes against suspected terrorists in the region.
"On the one hand, the US spends millions of dollars to eliminate polio, while on the other hand it kills hundreds" of people with the drones, he was reported as saying. The drones are "worse than polio", he added.
The commander is bartering with a region that is key to the final push on polio. An independent review of the polio eradication drive published this week shows just how close we are to that target. So far this year "there have been fewer cases in fewer districts of fewer countries than at any previous time". So why is a disease that is almost gone still a threat to be watched? (...)