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Over a million Pakistani children missed vaccinations amid fake scare against polio vaccine

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, May 3rd, 2019

Pakistani children are being lined up for vaccination | Courtesy : Reuters

A Federal government campaign to vaccinate more than 40 million children under five against polio in Pakistan has been suspended following a series of attacks on workers and police over the past week.

On April 23, a police officer responsible for protecting polio workers was gunned down in Bannu. The same day, a polio worker was injured with a knife in Lahore by a man refusing to allow his child to be vaccinated, citing a recent hoax video that claimed children were becoming ill after the immunisations.

The violence was preceded by a series of rumours intended to derail Pakistan’s campaign to eradicate the disease.

On April 22, several thousand children were taken to hospital in the north-west of the country by panicked parents after a video circulated on Facebook in which a man attested that children were falling sick following vaccinations.

The rumours spread like wildfire, triggering mass panic. Mobs burned a village health centre, blocked a highway and pelted cars with stones. Thirteen people are being investigated over the incident.

“The speed with which it (rumour) spread in the society, so quickly, it shows that there was some conspiracy against it (polio vaccinations). And obviously, government is investigating on those lines as well. The committee… Initially, the health department formed its own committee and we investigated this matter,” said Farooq Jameel, top Provincial Health official.

Vaccinators and police teams have previously been targeted in the country, where rumours have persisted about immunisation programmes being harmful or a cover for foreign interests.

But a shift to recruiting local workers for the door-to-door campaigns – people known and trusted in their communities and with the right language skills and access – had led to better acceptance.

“We knew that there was community mistrust, but community mistrust in one segment of society which refused vaccination due to religious beliefs will translate into the rest of the country, is something not seen in the past before in the polio program, because I’ve worked in the polio program myself for eight years and we haven’t seen any such phenomenon in the past in the program,” Babar Atta, Pakistan government’s focal person on polio said.

“But it clearly tells us that a lot of action and work now needs to be done at the community level at restoring public trust in vaccination campaigns,” the official added.

Pakistan has seen a 96% reduction in polio cases since 2014. It is one of three countries that have yet to eliminate the disease, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria. (REUTERS)

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Save the Children reports 76,000 minors displaced by hostilities in Mindanao

by Aileen Cerrudo   |   Posted on Wednesday, March 27th, 2019

Children in war-torn Marawi continue taking classes in temporary learning shelters after the siege destroyed majority of the schools in the city

A recent report by Save the Children Foundation showed that 76,383 children in Mindanao have been displaced by the hostilities in the last two months.

They expressed concern over these children who suffer from hunger, trauma and have been missing out on school.

According to Save the Children Philippines Chief Executive Officer Albert Muyot “children’s experience of conflict ranges from killing and maiming, to witnessing the destruction of their homes, schools, communities and the death of their loved ones.”

From five conflict-affected Mindanao provinces, 127,306 individuals were displaced and 76,383 of them are children.

“Two years after the siege, there are still 66,000 people living in tents in Marawi, while there are 12,000 displaced Lumads or Indigenous People (7,200 of them are children) in Surigao del Sur due to heavy fighting for over a year now,” the group said.

READ: Protection of children in armed conflict passes into law

The group is calling for aid for these children and access to humanitarian support.

In February this year, they launched “Stop the War on Children”, a worldwide campaign. It seeks immediate action to provide aid for children in conflicted areas.

“There is still hope for children living in conflict today, but this will require concerted action from governments and non-state actors. We can and must stop the children of today from becoming the forgotten generations of tomorrow, ” according to Helle Thorning-Schmidt Chief Executive of Save the Children International.—Aileen Cerrudo

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Rabies vaccine in short supply—DOH

by Aileen Cerrudo   |   Posted on Thursday, March 7th, 2019

Kinuskos ko ng bawang [ang sugat] (I just rubbed garlic on her wound),” Rose Ann Condeno said while cradling her daughter in her arms.

Her daughter was recently clawed by a stray cat while playing outside—she has not been vaccinated with anti-rabies.

According to the Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Eric Domingo, victims of rabies rarely survive and almost 100 percent of them die without receiving anti-rabies vaccine.

Rabies is a viral disease that can be passed from an animal to a human through biting or clawing. Rabies cases in the country often spike during vacation when children spend more time outside.

Victims of rabies usually get infected following a bite or a scratch from a rabid stray dog or cat on the street.

“Siyempre kapag bakasyon iyong mga bata, wala na sa eskwela, naglalaro maghapon, naglalaro sa kalye and then dito talaga tayo nagkakroon na dumadami ang cases ng nakakagat ng aso (Of course, during vacation, they are no longer in school. They will mostly play all afternoon. This is when cases of animal bite rise),” Domingo said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that 40 percent of people bitten by suspect rabid animals are children under 15 years of age.

Condeno’s daughter, who is only 11 months old, did not experience any fever and appears to be in stable condition.

“May nagsabi nga sa akin na pa-injectionan siya, pero tinignan ko naman medyo mababaw, kaya naman na hindi siya nilagnat (Someone told me to get her vaccinated but I checked and the wound is not that deep. She did not experience any fever),” she adds.

The DOH said vaccination is a must because cleaning or using alternative medicines will not be enough to prevent the virus.

“Hindi pa rin tayo nakakasigurado siyempre, kailangan pa rin natin iyong anti-bodies na lalaban sa rabies (We cannot be sure, we still need the anti-bodies to fight rabies),” Domingo said.

However, the Health department laments the lack of supply of anti-rabies vaccine in the country.

In April last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that supplies of human anti-rabies vaccines across the globe are contaminated.

With this, Domingo urges everyone to be more careful especially with children who has an open wound.

They can also suffer from rabies if they were licked by an animal without anti-rabies vaccine.

“We are asking everybody to be extra careful kasi talagang mayroon pa tayong shortage ng ating anti- rabies vaccines sa humans sa buong mundo (We are asking everybody to be extra careful because there is a global shortage of human anti-rabies vaccines),” he said. —Aileen Cerrudo (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

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Indians gather at border with Pakistan to welcome downed pilot

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, March 1st, 2019

Indian Soldiers and civilians await at border with Pakistan for the return of downed Pilot Abhinandan | Photo grabbed from a Reuters video

(REUTERS) — Indians eagerly waited for the return of a captured pilot by Islamabad on Friday (March 1), with some who have been staking out the Wagah border with Pakistan vowing to stay there until the arrival of their “hero”.

The pilot, identified as Wing Commander Abhinandan, became the human face of the flare-up over the contested region of Kashmir following the release of videos showing him being captured and later held in custody.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said the pilot would be released on Friday, even as his military reported that four Pakistani civilians had been killed by India firing across the disputed border in Kashmir.

The United States, China, European Union and other powers have urged restraint from the two nations, as tensions escalated following a suicide car bombing that killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Feb. 14.

The Muslim-majority Himalayan region has been at the heart of more than 70 years of animosity, since the partition of the British colony of India into the separate countries of Muslim Pakistan and majority Hindu India.

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