TIME Behind the Photos

Published Photographs Lead to Death Threats in Pakistan

A photographer has received “a credible and direct threat" against her life after five years of images shot in Pakistan were published in the U.K.

With the rise of extremist movements around the world, journalists have become prime targets in a war of communication both in the field and back at home, once their images have been published, as photographer Alixandra Fazzina learned this week.

After five years of working in Pakistan documenting the intimate daily lives of women and children, the London-based NOOR photographer has now become the target of death threats after her work was published in a national British newspaper. “This weekend, some of these stories were published for the first time in The Guardian magazine and online. I received a lot of hate mail and I’ve seen a lot of people erode my credibility on social media. They were intent on trying to destroy me.”

Fazzina was due to travel to Pakistan on Nov. 20, but she has since received warnings from diplomatic sources about “a credible and direct threat against my life,” she says. “I’ve taken risks in Pakistan, but they were very weighted up risks,” she says. “I don’t want to kill myself for a story.” Now, she feels, fear has caught up to her in London.

Fazzina started her career as a frontline photographer covering under reported conflicts in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Northern Uganda. “Over the years, my work has changed” she says, “It’s gone on instead to look at the consequences and fallout of wars.”

In 2008, after working on a long-term project in Somalia, she moved to Pakistan. “When I arrived, the effects of extremism were really starting to hit home,” she says. “One of the first things I did was to cover what was essentially Pakistan’s first frontline in the tribal areas. It was the first time that Pakistan’s military had engaged and began an operation against the Taliban there.”

Pakistan has been facing conflicts on multiple fronts – from separatist movements in Balochistan to homegrown Pakistani Taliban factions spreading violence across the country and all the way to Karachi – in June, 28 people were killed in a coordinated attack at Jinnah International Airport in the country’s economic capital.

Fazzina’s ambition was to document the consequences of these conflicts. “What I want to get across is how much civilians suffer and to try and tell their stories, to show what the real effects of war are away from the frontlines,” she says. “Millions of people in Pakistan are still suffering now, and they’re not getting any assistance.”

In her photographs, Fazzina has tried to avoid pointing the finger at one particular culprit, instead putting the blame on all participants. “I’ve covered victims of collateral damage, victims of airstrikes, victims of drone strikes. I covered people suffering from the military, from foreign intervention in region and also from the Taliban. I’ve tried to cover victims of war from all sides because I believe that in any theater of war, all players are responsible.”

After diplomatic sources in Islamabad warned her of the threat on her life from local extremist groups, Fazzina has been forced to cancel a planned trip to Pakistan where she was to report on maternal health. “I take this threat very seriously. There is a strong possibility if I return I will be killed simply for having documented what are realities on the ground” she says. “But, I won’t be silenced by this threat.”

Fazzina’s situation isn’t unique, she explains, as Pakistani journalists and photographers constantly risk their lives to document their country. “It’s extremely difficult for journalists to report without facing some kind of a risk – be it threats, harassment, or even expulsion from the country by the state,” says Mustafa Qadri, a researcher at Amnesty International. “We’ve certainly seen this year a number of high-profile attacks on journalists, which seems to be in response to their work being critical of the government, Taliban, or political parties. What brings all of these cases together is the fact that there’s no justice, there’s no accountability. That basically sends a signal that if you’re not happy with what journalists are reporting, you can literally get away with murder.”

Since 2008, Amnesty International has documented 36 cases of journalists who were killed in response to their work, with many more cases of harassment remaining undocumented. The Committee to Protect Journalists has been trying to fight this problem, says Bob Dietz, the Asian program coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists. “Everyone feels that they have total impunity to direct a threat towards a journalist. Foreign journalists aren’t the largest targets for these things; it’s really the local Pakistani journalists who bear the brunt of it. A Pakistani journalist awakes in the morning, opens his phone and check for messages and there might well be a string of threats in there. It’s a way of life. It’s a reality that people are dealing with.”

“We’ve tried to combat it,” Dietz adds. “[We’ve asked] journalists not to hide these threats, and instead to bring them out in public as a way to disarm them.” Yet, the CPJ and Amnesty International don’t expect such menaces to subside, including those against Fazzina. “We really welcome the work that she did,” says Qadri. “We feel that not enough is done to expose the condition of women and girls in Pakistan; what ordinary life is for them. It’s really sad that in trying to do that, she’s now facing these kinds of threats.”

For the 40-year-old photographer, these threats are indicative of a massive shift in war reporting. “The landscape has really changed from fundamentalist groups wanting to tell their stories to journalists becoming actual targets of these groups,” says Fazzina. “In some way, the voices that can speak out against human rights abuses are slowly being silenced. And people would rather shoot the messenger than acknowledged the actual state of [affairs].”

Alixandra Fazzina is a London-based photographer represented by NOOR.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent

TIME Terrorism

Terrorism-Related Deaths Up 60% Last Year, Study Says

AFGHANISTAN-UNREST-ATTACKS
An Afghan policeman is seen through the wreckage of a taxi which was destroyed by a suicide attack targeting a vehicle convoy of Afghan lawmakers in Kabul, Afghanistan on Nov. 16, 2014. Farshad Usyan—AFP/Getty Images

More than 80% of the deaths occurred in Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria

Nearly 18,000 people were killed in terrorist-related incidents last year, a 60% increase from the previous year, a new study found. Deaths have increased five-fold since 2000.

The report, compiled by the Institute for Economics & Peace, attributes the increased terrorist activity to the growing influence of “radical Islamic groups.” Two thirds of the fatalities came at the hands of ISIS, Boko Haram, al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the report said.

“Given the theological nature of the problem it is difficult for outside actors to be influential,” Steve Killelea, institute executive chairman, said in a statement.

As the number of deaths has expanded, the location of attacks has remained limited. More than 80% of the deaths occurred in just five countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria.

TIME India

India Cannot Ignore the Ramifications of the Suicide Bombing at Wagah

India's BSF soldiers patrol in front of the golden jubilee gate at the Wagah border
India's Border Security Force soldiers patrol in front of the golden jubilee gate at the Wagah border on the outskirts of the northern Indian city of Amritsar on Nov. 3, 2014 Munish Sharma—Reuters

The splintering of the Pakistani Taliban has led to a realignment of groups that might target India next, experts say

India and Pakistan conducted their traditional flag-lowering ceremony at the Wagah border crossing on Monday evening, a day after a terrorist killed nearly 60 people in a suicide bombing on the Pakistani side.

Taking place at the only land crossing between the two neighbors, the ceremony is a major tourist attraction. There was talk of it being canceled, but in the event it went ahead, sending a message to the militants.

“Today’s ceremony proved that terrorists cannot lower the spirit of the nation by their cowardly activities,” said Lieut. General Naveed Zaman, commander of Pakistan’s Lahore Corps.

Multiple militant organizations — all splinter groups of the Pakistani Taliban — are claiming responsibility for Sunday’s attack, saying it was in response to the Pakistan army’s recent anti-insurgency crackdown in the country’s North Waziristan region. But the attack’s implications for India — which has fought three wars with Pakistan — cannot be ignored, several experts speaking to TIME say.

“It is difficult to believe that whoever was involved in planning this attack did not have any idea of its implications,” says Radha Kumar, director of the Delhi Policy Group. Kumar adds that trade and travel between the two countries, already at a bare minimum, would likely be impacted. “With flights between the two countries down to one a week, more and more people are using Wagah to cross over,” she says.

Ved Marwah, chairman of the Indian government’s task force on National Security and the Criminal Justice System and author of the book Uncivil Wars: Pathology of Terrorism in India, said India presents the “No. 1 target” for any forces threatening the security and stability of Pakistan. “I think it’s a very serious threat, we can’t take it lightly,” Marwah says. “The very fact that three organizations are claiming credit for this particular incident shows how deep the infection has infiltrated into Pakistan.”

The two countries have engaged in an on-again, off-again dialogue toward peace over the years, and their recent relationship has been tense mainly because of escalating military conflicts in the contentious Kashmir region. India has long accused the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, of encouraging and even facilitating cross-border terrorism, but the apparent lack of control over these groups has alarm bells ringing on both sides of the border.

“I think the primary message of this explosion is for Pakistan, these groups are saying that despite the dislocation of the Pakistani Taliban they still have power to challenge the state,” said Hasan Askari Rizvi, a prominent Pakistani defense analyst, explaining the likely motives behind Sunday’s attack. “India will have to recognize that not all groups are under Pakistani control,” Rizvi says.

A degree of skepticism remains on the Indian side, however, and an Indian government official speculated to the Economic Times that the bomber’s intended target was India.

“They may not be [under the ISI],” says Marwah, “but the fact is their agendas and the ISI’s agendas converge as far as India is concerned.”

Rizvi admits that he shares that concern as well, especially following the weakening of the Pakistani Taliban, which has led to a realignment and attempted assertion of power among its rebel factions.

Major General Rashid Qureshi, a former spokesperson for the Pakistani army and close aide of former President Pervez Musharraf, says the North Waziristan operation should have started a long time ago and blames the current civilian government for the lapse. “In their effort to prove their democratic credentials, our government seems to tolerate lawlessness which I think defies proper governance,” Qureshi says. “The delay definitely strengthened these extremists and terrorists, and they were able to get a fair amount of influence and hold in the tribal regions,” he adds.

Qureshi describes the Wagah border as a “soft target” for the terrorists, the one place where he says India and Pakistan show some degree of cooperative interaction. “I think this act of terrorism had a twofold aim to sow the seeds of doubt in the minds of the Pakistanis as well as the Indians, because the moment you see such an act happening so close to your border, you get a little apprehensive.”

While all three men agree that the two countries need to work together to resolve the issue through dialogue, the actual possibility of that happening seems low under the current circumstances.

“There’s very little likelihood of the leadership talking to each other because the political situation in Pakistan would not allow that,” says Marwah, referring to the massive protests facing Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and urging the need for back-channel diplomacy. “[Prime Minister Narendra] Modi in India doesn’t have the political compulsions that his counterpart has.”

Rizvi says the fact that the attacks targeted Pakistan serves is a saving grace of sorts. “Had such an incident taken place on the other side of the border, it would have created a major crisis in India-Pakistan relations.”

TIME Military

The Capabilities of the Afghan Military Are Suddenly a Secret

Enduring Freedom
Recruits get ready to become members of the Afghan National Police force in Kandahar province. DoD photo / TSgt Adrienne Brammer

Watchdog says U.S. taxpayers can’t know if investment is paying off

For years, American taxpayers have been able to chart how well the Afghanistan security forces they’re funding are faring, because “capability assessments” detailing their progress have been routinely released.

Not anymore.

As the U.S. military prepares to withdraw most of its 34,000 troops still in Afghanistan by the end of this year, the American-led command there has suddenly made such information secret.

Classifying the data “deprives the American people of an essential tool to measure the success or failure of the single most costly feature of the Afghanistan reconstruction effort,” John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, says in Thursday’s quarterly report to Congress. “SIGAR and Congress can of course request classified briefings on this information, but its inexplicable classification now and its disappearance from public view does a disservice to the interest of informed national discussion.”

A U.S. Army spokesman says the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan decided to classify the capability ratings as part of its “responsibility to protect data that could jeopardize the operational security of our Afghan partners” as they assume “full security responsibility” for their country’s defense.

U.S. taxpayers have spent more than $50 billion training and outfitting Afghan security forces. In the prior quarterly report, issued in July, the IG used the then-available-but-now-classified data to report that 92% of Afghan army units, and 67% of Afghan national police units, were “capable” or “fully capable” of carrying out their missions.

Capability ratings like these from July are now classified. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction

“The Afghan National Security Forces [ANSF] capability assessments prepared by the [U.S. and NATO-led] International Security Assistance Force Joint Command have recently been classified, leaving the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction without a critical tool to publicly report on development of the ANSF,” the report says. “This is a significant change.”

The capabilities of Afghan forces become more important as the U.S. and its allies pull out, leaving local troops to battle the Taliban largely on their own. There are reports that Taliban forces are gaining ground in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province, vacated earlier this week by U.S. Marines and British troops, and in the northern part of the country.

Past SIGAR reports have used summary data about major Afghan units’ readiness, sustainability and other measurements to trace their progress. More detailed reporting on smaller units has always been classified to keep the Taliban and other insurgents ignorant of Afghan military weaknesses. “It is not clear what security purpose is served by denying the American public even high-level information,” the report says.

“SIGAR has routinely reported on assessments of the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police as indicators of the effectiveness of U.S. and Coalition efforts to build, train, equip, and sustain the ANSF,” the report says. “These assessments provide both U.S. and Afghan stakeholders—including the American taxpayers who pay the costs of recruiting, training, feeding, housing, equipping, and supplying Afghan soldiers—with updates on the status of these forces as transition continues and Afghanistan assumes responsibility for its own security.”

ISAF made the change an after August review “to address potential concerns about operational security,” Army Lieut. Colonel Chris Belcher said in an email from Afghanistan. He said that such information “could provide adversaries critical intelligence that could be exploited, endangering the lives of our Afghan partners and the coalition forces serving alongside them.” He added that ISAF “will continue to provide SIGAR access to the information necessary to enable the organization to carry out its Congressionally mandated duties.”

TIME Afghanistan

Afghan Troop Death Toll Hits Record High

Afghan Army handover
Afghan Army soldiers carry their comrade in a wheel-barrow after he was shot during a firefight on Tuesday April 2, 2013 in Wardak Province. Michel du Cille—The Washington Post / Getty Images

2014 marked the deadliest year for Afghan forces struggling to take control of the country

More than 4,000 Afghan troops died in combat in 2014, a record high since the U.S.-led invasion began in 2001, according to new casualty figures released by the Afghan defense ministry.

The new figure marks the first update to the death toll since 2013, when a mounting number of casualties prompted officials to suspend the count rather than risk doing harm to troop morale, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The updated tally counts roughly 4,380 casualties suffered by Afghanistan soldiers and police since the beginning of 2014, underscoring an escalating battle between Taliban rebels and Afghanistan’s fledgeling administration, which is racing to gain control of the country before the last remaining US combat troops withdraw by the end of 2014.

[WSJ]

TIME Nobel Peace Prize

Malala: I Feel ‘More Powerful’ After Nobel Win

Peace Prize laureate said she and co-winner Kailash Satyarthi will use the shared award to strengthen the relationship between India and Pakistan

Updated 2:19p.m. ET

Pakistani education rights advocate Malala Yousafzai said Friday her Nobel Peace Prize would motivate her to redouble her efforts on behalf of girls’ education and children’s rights.

In a short speech reacting to the award, the 17-year-old Nobel laureate also said that she and Indian co-winner Kailash Satyarthi would use the shared award as an opportunity to build peace between India and Pakistan.

“I felt more powerful and more courageous, because this award is not just a piece of metal… its really an encouragement for me to go forward and to believe in myself,” Malala said. “This is not the end of the campaign I have started. This is only the beginning.”

“I want to tell children all around the world that they should stand up for their rights, they shouldn’t wait for someone else,” she continued. “This award is for all those children who are voiceless, whose voices need to be heard.”

Malala also said that she and Satyarthi, an advocate against child labor, had spoken on the phone after winning the award, and had discussed working together to fight for the rights of children in both India and Pakistan:

We are the two Noble award receivers, one from Pakistan, one from India, one believes in Hinduism, one believes strongly in Islam. It gives a message to people, it gives a message to people of love between Pakistan and India, between different religions. If we both support each other it does not matter the colour of your skin, what language you speak, what religion you believe in. It is that we should all consider each other human beings and respect each other and we should all fight for our rights, the rights of children, or the rights of women and the rights of every human being.

She said they also agreed to request that their respective Prime Ministers, Narendra Modi of India and Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan, attend the Nobel Prize Ceremony in December, in order to build a stronger relationship between the two nations.

President Obama, who won the award in 2009, congratulated the winners in a statement. “In recognizing Malala and Kailash, the Nobel Committee reminds us of the urgency of their work to protect the rights and freedoms of all our young people and to ensure they have the chance to fulfill their God-given potential, regardless of their background, or gender, or station in life,” he said. “Even as we celebrate their achievements, we must recommit ourselves to the world that they seek ­— one in which our daughters have the right and opportunity to get an education; and in which all children are treated equally.”

TIME world affairs

In Photos: 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai

Two years and one day after she was shot in the head by the Taliban, the 17-year old education activist becomes the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize. (She shares the honor with Kailash Satyarthi, who has long been campaigning against child exploitation in neighboring India)

TIME Afghanistan

Senior Democrat: We Should Be Proud of Afghanistan Progress

Levin Briefs On Investigation Into Private Security Contractors In Afghanistan
Carl Levin, retiring chairman of the armed services committee, thinks Americans have a "distorted" view of what the U.S. has accomplished in Afghanistan. Alex Wong / Getty Images

Retiring Sen. Carl Levin (D—Mich), chairman of the armed services committee, says things are getting better all the time in Afghanistan

Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who chairs the armed services committee, is leaving the Senate after 36 years. He spent Wednesday’s breakfast with a bunch of defense reporters responding to their questions on the U.S.-led attacks against Islamic militants and the Pentagon’s budget crunch.

Levin is no bomb-thrower or partisan hack. When we offered him the chance to say a final word at the end of his final breakfast with us, we listened:

Thank you for the years that we’ve been having breakfast together. I guess my one request, which I have feelings about, is our view of Afghanistan. I’ve been there a dozen times…they’ve made some amazing progress…The people of Afghanistan, by al measure, are glad we came. Eight million kids in school now, versus 800,000 kids under the Taliban; 40% girls, 40% women teachers. Universities now have formed.

Kabul, you can move in. Yea, there’s bombings and they’re covered all the time, and I understand it. But is it a glass half full? I think at least half full and I think, more importantly, it’s getting fuller…

I feel so strongly that the American public view of Afghanistan is distorted—it’s highly negative, they feel we failed. They have a right to feel some real satisfaction because we didn’t fail—quite the opposite. They haven’t succeeded yet, but with our help they have made some real strides, and it doesn’t come through.

So my plea would be, since this may be my last opportunity, would be to somehow or other cover the positives that have occurred in Afghanistan…

I just quote these public opinion polls: Americans, 70% or 65% think we have not achieved anything. In Afghanistan it’s 70 or 80% think we have. How does that happen that the people who are in the middle of that war think we’ve really done some good, and the people who are 10,000 or 15,000 miles away think we haven’t?

Particularly our troops and their families, they’ve got a right to feel they’ve accomplished something, ‘cause they have.

The American people, taxpayers, have a right to feel they’ve accomplished something, ‘cause they have…

I’m just going to hope that somehow or other [ex-defense secretary Robert] Gates’ point, his statement, will no longer prove to be true after a couple of more years. The statement that he made was that Afghanistan is the only war he’s ever seen that the closer you get to it, the better it looks.

I believe that that’s true, and I hope a couple of years from now, when I find a way to visit Afghanistan, that we’ll not only see more progress, but the American people finally realize that `Hey, it was worth it.’

 

 

U.S. Congressional Delegation Visits Afghanistan
Carl Levin, center, on a 2011 visit to Afghanistan. U.S. Navy / Getty Images
TIME Afghanistan

Afghan Militants May Join ISIS Says Their Commander

The link-up could pose a renewed threat to an already fragile Afghanistan

An Afghanistan-based militant group with links to the Taliban is considering aligning itself with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the BBC reports.

Commander Mirwais of the Hezb-e-Islami, a group notorious for its brutality, called ISIS fighters “great mujahideen,” and told the BBC his group was waiting to see if ISIS met the requirements for a true Islamic caliphate. “We pray for them,” he said, “and if we don’t see a problem in the way they operate, we will join them.”

Hezb-e-Islami, along with the rest of the Taliban and its allies, are in conflict with an Afghan government in the midst of a leadership crisis. A winner of the recent presidential election has yet to be named, as the voting is being audited.

Mirwais said the current government was weak and had no control in rural areas, adding that the group will “continue to fight until we establish an Islamic state.”

Kabul-based politician and intelligence expert Amrullah Saleh told the BBC that politics and society in Afghanistan had changed too much for the Taliban to retake power. But a link-up between Afghan insurgents and extremist ISIS fighters could pose a renewed threat.

[BBC]

TIME polio

The Battle to Eradicate Polio in Pakistan

A Pakistani health worker vaccinates a child in Islamabad
A Pakistani health worker vaccinates a child in Islamabad Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Political unrest in Pakistan has been a gift to the poliovirus, with 99 cases reported there so far this year. But Rotary International, which has already vaccinated 2 billion children in 122 countries, is hitting back hard

Epidemiology can be all about geography—and that’s especially true when it comes to polio. If you live in the U.S., where polio was eradicated in 1979, the specter of the disease has faded almost entirely, though pockets of infections can occur among the unvaccinated. In Pakistan, however, things are moving in precisely the opposite direction, and have been for a while now.

One of only three countries in the world where polio remains endemic (the other two are Nigeria and Afghanistan), Pakistan had been close to joining the world’s polio-free nations, with only 58 infections in 2012. But thanks to bans on vaccinating—and deadly attacks on polio fieldworkers—by the Pakistani Taliban, the caseload rose to 93 in 2013. In 2014, the total reached 99 by July 18—a figure all the more alarming compared to this point last year, when there had been just 21 cases.

“It’s a scary number,” says Aziz Memon, Pakistani chairman of Rotary International’s polio eradication campaign. “Children in North Waziristan have been trapped for three and a half years without a drop of polio vaccine, and that’s what’s causing this.”

The folks at Rotary know what they’re talking about. Since launching their polio eradication effort in 1985, they have been responsible for the vaccination of 2 billion children in 122 countries. Along with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, The Gates Foundation and others, they have helped slash the global infection rate from 350,000 cases per year in 1988 to 416 in 2013.

That’s indisputably good news, but polio is an exceedingly sneaky virus, with 200 symptom-free carriers for every one case of the disease. That fact, combined with the anti-vaccine forces in Pakistan, not to mention the porous borders cause by war and unrest in the overall region, has caused the disease to leak out from the three endemic countries, with stray cases turning up in Equatorial Guinea, Iraq, Cameroon, Syria, Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. In a handful of other countries, the virus has been detected in sewage, but it has not led to any cases of the disease—yet.

It’s Pakistan though that’s considered ground zero, and Rotary has announced that it’s now deploying some very simple weapons in what has always been a village-to-village, door-to-door battle. To improve surveillance and tracking—a maddeningly difficult job in a country in which so many people live off the communications grid—Rotary has distributed hundreds of cell phones to midwives who circulate through communities, canvassing residents to find out who has received the vaccine and who has been overlooked. Information on the unvaccinated kids—the “missing children” in the fieldworkers argot—is entered into the phones and uploaded to a central spreadsheet, allowing later vaccinators to target their efforts more precisely.

“The midwives also track pregnant mothers,” says Memon. “And when their children are born they can continue to maintain complete health records, not just for polio but for other vaccines and basic health care as well.”

Rotary has also worked with The Coca-Cola Company to build what’s known as a reverse osmosis water plant—essentially a sophisticated filtration facility—in the town of Malin, within the city of Karachi. Polio is a disease spread almost entirely by human waste, and once it leeches into the water system it can spread nearly anywhere. The Malir plant, which was constructed near a school to give polio-age kids the first access to the newly filtered water, is a relatively modest one, with just 20,000 gal. (76,000 liters) of clean water on hand at any one moment, and cost only $40,000 to build. But as a pilot project it represents a very good start. “We can’t build a massive plant like the government can,” says Memon. “This is a small plant for a small community.”

One thing, paradoxically, that’s working in the vaccinators’ favor is the increased number of displaced people in Pakistan. A recent push by the Pakistani military to flush the Taliban from its safe havens has broken the vaccination blockade, and already 350,000 children have received at least one dose of the polio vaccine. But 1.5 million refugees are scattered around the country. Rotary has dispatched field workers to refugee camps and transit points to identify the children and few adults who need the polio vaccine and administer it on the spot.

“The government did not have any idea about what the numbers of displaced people would be,” says Memon. In the refugee camps, he adds, there are at least 40,000 pregnant women, whose babies will have to be vaccinated shortly after birth.

The diabolical thing about polio—and indeed any disease science hopes to eradicate—is that even one case is too many. As long as any wild poliovirus is out there, everyone needs to be protected. It is only when the last scrap of virus has been found and snuffed, that the protective push can stop. That has happened once before in medical history—with smallpox. In the case of polio, it’s tantalizingly close to happening again.

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