There is grim news from Pakistan that five women volunteers in the rural areas who were administering the polio vaccine were shot dead, with the killers suspected of being Taliban, who claim that the vaccination campaign is part of a nefarious plot by the west. As a result, the UN and the Pakistani government have been forced to suspend the program in that region.
These suspicions of a plot were bolstered by the appalling decision by the US government to use a bogus vaccination campaign as part of their plan to find Osama bin Laden. People in the US perhaps do not quite realize how suspicious people in the developing world are of western programs being used for covert purposes. Growing up in Sri Lanka, we used to routinely suspect that Peace Corp, British Council, and other do-gooder organizations were seeded with CIA and other spies. So it would not take much for a paranoid fanatical group like the Taliban to think that this too was a CIA plot.
I am certain that there were people within the US government smart enough and with a conscience who would have realized that creating a fake vaccination campaign as a counter-terrorism tool was a terrible idea because of the damage it would do to the efforts of people who already had to struggle to overcome the prejudices of the local population against vaccinations. But they were likely overruled by those for whom bin Laden’s scalp was worth the price of risking dooming Pakistani children to this horrible disease.
In 2011 alone, there were 200 cases in that country, the worst outbreak in 15 years. We are so close to eradicating polio worldwide. Only Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria are countries where the disease is still endemic. It is a monstrous crime to hinder the effort toward complete elimination once and for all.