Nearly a month into the war in Gaza, pollsters have been taking a look at how attitudes in the region have changed among Israelis and Palestinians. For more on the changes to public opinion, Ari Shapiro speaks with Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University and Khalil Shikaki of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah.
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hide captionA corn purchaser writes on his account in northwest China in 2012. In November 2013, officials began rejecting imports of U.S. corn when they detected traces of a new gene not yet approved in China.
For a while there, China was the American farmer’s best friend. The world’s most populous nation had so many pigs and chickens to feed, it became one of the top importers of U.S. corn and soybeans almost overnight.
China also developed a big appetite for another corn-derived animal feed called “dried distillers grains with solubles,” or DDGS, a byproduct of ethanol production. China’s appetites for the stuff drove up global grain prices and filled Midwestern pockets with cash.
This year, though, the lovely relationship has gone sour, all because of biotechnology.
A couple of years ago, American farmers began planting a new type of genetically engineered corn invented by the seed company Syngenta. This GMO contains a new version of a gene that protects the corn plant from certain insects. Problem is, this new gene isn’t yet approved in China, and Chinese officials didn’t appreciate it when traces of the new, as-yet-unapproved GMOs started showing up in boatloads of American grain.
The crackdown began in November 2013. China began rejecting shiploads of corn when officials detected traces of the new gene. By February of this year, U.S. exports of corn to China had practically ceased.
At the time, some American grain exporters said that there was little to worry about. The Chinese move, they said, probably was intended to slow down imports temporarily in order to make sure that China’s farmers got a decent price for their own corn harvest. As evidence, they pointed to the fact that China continued to accept imports of DDGS, which also contain traces of the unapproved gene. The U.S. sent $1.6 billion worth of DDGS to China last year.
Well, last week, China expanded the ban to DDGS, shocking many traders. The price of DDGS plunged.
According to the National Grain and Feed Association, the Chinese ban on corn and corn products may end up costing American farmers, ethanol producers and traders a total of about $3 billion.
Max Fisher, director of Economics for the NGFA, who came up with that estimate, says the ban actually is hurting the Chinese, too. “They replaced [the U.S. corn] with more expensive grains,” he says, such as barley from Australia. But one group of American farmers is benefiting: China is importing lots more sorghum.
In an interesting twist, American farm groups seem unsure whom to blame. Some are angry at China. Others point their finger at Syngenta.
A few days ago, the U.S. Grains Council wrote a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, urging his “immediate, direct, and personal intervention” with Chinese officials “to halt this current regulatory sabotage of the DDGS trade with China.”
The NGFA and the North American Export Grain Association, on the other hand, have called on Syngenta to stop selling the offending corn varieties until those varieties can be sold in major export markets.
“They’re being a bad actor here,” says Max Fisher of NGFA, referring to Syngenta. “They’re making $40 million” selling the new corn varieties, “but it’s costing U.S. farmers $1 billion.”
Syngenta, for its part, rejects any blame for the debacle. “We want to get technology into the hands of farmers as soon as possible,” said the company’s CEO, David Morgan, in a video released on Syngenta’s website. “We can’t expect growers to wait indefinitely for access to technologies, based on what foreign governments decide to do.” According to Morgan, China has failed to make a timely decision on the new gene, which goes by the name MIR 162.
Even if China approved MIR 162, however, the ban might remain. That’s because Syngenta began selling yet another new new type of GMO corn this year, which also is not yet approved in China.
Syngenta has asked farmers to take that corn to specific grain processors, who will keep it from getting into export shipments. But Fisher thinks the new gene is likely to show up in exports. “Farmers are going to be farmers,” he says, and sell their grain through the usual channels.
hide captionFlares light up the night sky over Gaza City early Friday, Aug. 1. Leaders of Hamas and Israel have agreed to begin a cease-fire Friday at 8 a.m. local time, the UN says.
A temporary peace will begin Friday morning in Gaza, as Israel and Hamas agree to an “unconditional humanitarian ceasefire,” according to a statement by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Secretary of State John Kerry.
The truce is set to begin at 8 a.m. local time Friday and last for 72 hours. U.N. Special Coordinator Robert Serry says he’s been assured by officials from both Israel and Hamas that they will abide by the truce. The envoys will also travel to Cairo to negotiate a possible longer peace deal, in talks hosted by Egypt.
As NPR’s Emily Harris reported earlier today, Gaza has been hit by water and power shortages.
From the statement from Ban and Kerry:
“This ceasefire is critical to giving innocent civilians a much-needed reprieve from violence. During this period, civilians in Gaza will receive urgently needed humanitarian relief, and the opportunity to carry out vital functions, including burying the dead, taking care of the injured, and restocking food supplies. Overdue repairs on essential water and energy infrastructure could also continue during this period.”
News of the truce comes after the U.S. revealed it had allowed Israel “to dip into a little-known U.S. munitions stockpile” for ammunition, using some of the emergency ammunition to conduct its offensive in Gaza.
In the 24 days of fighting, more than 1,360 people have died in Gaza, Palestinian officials say. In Israel, 59 people have died, according to officials there.
hide captionAn Israeli army officer walks near the entrance of a tunnel allegedly used by Palestinian militants for cross-border attacks, at the Israel-Gaza border. A network of tunnels Palestinian militants have dug from Gaza to Israel is taking center stage in the latest war between Hamas and Israel.
Israeli officials say the country’s deadly ground offensive won’t end until its soldiers destroy a vast network of Hamas tunnels the militants use to try to attack Jewish communities outside the Gaza Strip.
Three more soldiers died Wednesday when explosives detonated as they uncovered one of those tunnels. That came hours after Hamas released a graphic video claiming to show another deadly tunnel-generated attack inside Israel earlier in the week.
Such incidents have many Israelis asking why their forces didn’t stop Hamas from building the elaborate tunnels in the first place. And in Israel, calls are mounting for an investigation into how authorities have handled the tunnel threat.
In the grainy video released by Hamas Wednesday, black-clad militants shove their weapons through a tunnel entrance, then climb out and run toward what looks like an army post inside Israel.
Five Israeli soldiers were killed in the attack Tuesday — which the video purportedly shows — as were a handful of Hamas fighters. Israeli officials say the militants’ aim was to kill and kidnap Israeli citizens.
Such revelations are rattling Israelis more than the 2,000-plus rockets Hamas has fired into their country since the war began earlier this month, says Smadar Perry, who writes about the tunnels for Israel’s largest daily newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth.
“If we don’t finish the problem of the tunnels, people in the southern part of Israel along the border with Gaza may leave their houses and go look for a new address because nobody wants to go to sleep and wake up with the killers and terrorists in his bedroom,” says Perry, who is the paper’s Middle East editor.
But she and other journalists say Israeli authorities will likely have to answer for how Hamas was able to build enough tunnels to allow militants to infiltrate Israel six times since the Gaza offensive began three weeks ago.
hide captionAn Israeli army officer gives journalists a tour on July 25 of a tunnel allegedly used by Palestinian militants for cross-border attacks, at the Israel-Gaza border.
An investigation by Israel’s state comptroller in 2005 found “continued failure” in dealing with the tunnel problem due to issues with technology and intelligence. The Israeli military only intensified its efforts to deal with the tunnel threat in December 2004 — after a number of major attacks — but it wasn’t enough, the state comptroller concluded.
At the time, the inquiry called for bringing in more international and Israeli experts to find better ways to detect tunnels.
At a briefing earlier this week, Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s intelligence minister, defended the way authorities have dealt with the tunnels. The military says 32 have been uncovered so far; half of those have been destroyed.
“You know it is not always the case that if we have threats we decide to immediately go to a big ground operation in order to neutralize it,” Steinitz said.
Perry, however, says she found few officials who were concerned about the tunnels before some of the newer, more sophisticated versions were accidentally uncovered earlier this year.
The journalist toured one of them with a senior Israeli officer.
“It was very strange,” Perry says. “I could feel or I could sense that the officer and the military feel helpless because these four tunnels were exposed by coincidence because of the heavy rains and not because of intelligence.”
Military officials deny they are negligent in tackling the tunnels and say they used both intelligence and technology to plot them.
But what they and their critics agree on is that previous encounters with the tunnels — most of which ran between the Gaza Strip and Egypt — were less worrying because they were mainly used for smuggling.
Israeli officials say it wasn’t until Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and Hamas took over the territory in 2007 that a labyrinth was created to send militants into Israel for large-scale attacks. Because Jewish settlements were gone, officials say, it made it more difficult to keep tabs on what Hamas was doing.
Israeli Reserve Brig. Gen. Shimon Daniel, who headed the combat engineering force between 2003 and 2007, says it wasn’t easy to uncover tunnels even back then, because they aren’t deep enough for ground penetration radar to locate.
He says Israel adapted foreign technology used to find oil and gas reserves to come up with a way to locate tunnels.
The newer tunnels are easier to find, Daniel adds, because they are far longer and heavily reinforced.
“Unlike what it was like during my time, they are put together with communications [capabilities], air, electricity, cement walls and other materials,” he says.
All of this means they show up better on radar.
But not so their entrances into Israel, because they are too close to the surface for radar to locate.
“It looks simple, but it’s complicated. It’s low-tech that high-tech doesn’t even know how to find,” he explains. “It borders on the abilities of what modern physics can do today.”
Nor can they be seen by the naked eye, Daniel adds, because they aren’t dug open until the actual attack.
He adds that as many as 11 tunnel entrances into Israel have been uncovered so far.
Daniel Estrin contributed to this report.
hide captionA glass is filled with Moldovan wine at a wine fair in Belgium on Nov. 4, 2013.
Consider, for a moment, the misfortunes of winemakers in Moldova, a former Soviet republic in southeastern Europe, tucked in between Ukraine and Romania.
Their country is the poorest in Europe, with a per capita GDP about the same as Honduras. They’d love to sell their product — which have gotten approving nods from foreign critics — in wealthier countries. But most of those customers don’t even know that Moldova exists, let alone that its winemaking tradition goes back thousands of years.
“It’s a very popular question: Where’s Moldova?“ says Veaceslav Nivnea, marketing director for Albastrele Wines, a company based in Chisinau, the country’s capital.
Now throw in a dose of political upheaval. And we’re not just talking wars and revolutions, Soviet rule or destruction of vineyards during Mikhail Gorbachev’s anti-alcohol campaign in the 1980s.
There’s more. Late last year, Russia, traditionally their biggest market, banned imports of Moldovan wine, ostensibly for reasons of food safety.
But the timing — right before Moldova was set to sign an agreement to pursue closer ties to the European Union — suggested that the move could have been political retaliation. (The EU’s food safety authorities saw no problem with the same wines.) Meanwhile, right next door in Ukraine, there’s a political crisis and escalating violence.
So are Moldovan winemakers feeling beaten down? Not at all. “It helps us,” says Andrian Davidescu, commercial director of Vinaria din Vale, another wine producer. “Before, nobody knows there is a country Moldova. Now, they know where it is. Next to Ukraine!”
In fact, 13 of Moldova’s top wine producers chose just this moment to promote their wines — which observers say have improved vastly in recent years — to wine reviewers and importers in the U.S. Earlier this week, they held a tasting event in Washington, D.C. On Thursday, they’ll be doing the same at the Astor Center in New York.
hide captionGrapes to make Cabernet wine are readied to be harvested in southern Moldova in 2009. Only 3.6 million people live in Moldova, but the country is ranked fourteenth in the world among wine producers.
According to Christy Canterbury, a New York-based wine expert, wines from Moldava certainly could claim a place on the wine list, if given a fair chance. “Prospects for the dry aromatic whites are fantastic,” she says. Their biggest obstacle? A lingering perception among many importers that former Soviet republics “must be rustic countries that don’t know what they’re doing.”
Moldova has outgrown that reputation, she says. Winemakers are using the latest technology, and “the terroir is excellent.” She’s tasted 13 wines from producers on the current tour. Eleven of the 13, she says, “were very good.” (The other two were “fine, but nothing to write home about.”)
The other big obstacle for Moldovan producers, she says, is the crowded wine marketplace, and the tendency of shops to put wines from Moldova in the section marked “Other Regions,” at the back of the store or the bottom of the rack. Canterbury advises Moldovan producers to focus on promoting their local wine varieties, such as Feteasca Alba and Feteasca Neagra, because few others grow them.
But the essential problem of Moldova’s obscurity remains. The country’s winemakers need something to grab a buyer’s attention; something that gives Moldovan wines an identity, and makes them memorable.
Canterbury has one idea. There may not be another country in the world that relies so heavily for its economic survival on this ancient drink.
Only 3.6 million people live in Moldova, but somehow it’s the fourteenth biggest wine producer in the world, just ahead of Brazil. According to Canterbury, roughly a quarter of the country’s population works, directly or indirectly, in the wine business. Astonishingly, it even boasts the world’s biggest wine cellar, a vast cave with 120 miles of passageways, of which 34 miles are used. Moldovans even claim that the shape of their country resembles a bunch of grapes.
So who’s got a catchy marketing slogan for a small, embattled, country that’s kind of like a big, big vineyard?
hide captionAn injured man screams as he is carried to an ambulance following a strike in Gaza City’s Shijaiyah neighborhood on Wednesday
It may have been a tragic case of confusion.
The Israeli Defense Forces declared a four-hour humanitarian cease-fire on Wednesday. But the army said it did not apply where soldiers were already engaged and that residents who had evacuated should not return to those areas.
According to Gaza’s health ministry, at least 17 Palestinians were killed and as many as 200 wounded when shells hit a street market in Gaza City’s Shijaiyah neighborhood, “which residents thought was temporarily safe but which the Israelis considered part of an active combat zone,” The New York Times reports.
More than 1,300 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed during the 23-day old conflict. Israel has lost 56 soldiers and three civilians.
The Israeli army said that Hamas fired dozens of rockets into Israel Wednesday, reporting no injuries or damage. Hamas said the number was far fewer.
Israel’s Security Cabinet met for four hours on Wednesday and ordered the army to continue its offensive in Gaza. An Israeli official told the Jerusalem Post that the operation has led to “significant achievements on the ground” and is damaging Hamas’ “strategic apparatus.”
As we reported earlier, at least 20 people were killed, according to Palestinian health officials, when a shell struck a United Nations-run school Wednesday morning in Gaza.
Both the U.N. and the White House have condemned that attack.
The Obama administration is slapping stronger sanctions on Russia. The sanctions — which target key sectors of the Russian economy, including finance and defense — come as a response to Moscow’s alleged involvement in Ukraine. The move comes on the same day that the European Union announced sanctions of its own.
hide captionMedical workers treat Ebola patients at the Eternal Love Winning Africa hospital in Monrovia, Liberia. Three workers at the hospital, including Dr. Kent Brantly (left), have tested positive for Ebola.
Courtesy of Samaritan’s Purse
A doctor trained in Fort Worth, Texas, is now a victim of the Ebola outbreak he was battling.
Kent Brantly, 33, had been caring for Ebola patients in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, for several months when he noticed he had symptoms of the deadly virus last Wednesday.
hide captionWhen Dr. Kent Brantly finished his residency in Texas two years ago, he and his family immediately moved to West Africa to help people there.
JPS Health Network/AP
JPS Health Network/AP
He immediately put himself into an isolation ward.
“He is still conversing and is in isolation. But he is seriously ill with a very grave prognosis,” says Dr. David McRay, of John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, who spoke to Brantly by phone on Monday.
“Kent is a calm, confident, focused individual, with a deep calling for the work that he’s doing,” McRay says.
After Brantly completed his residency at John Peter Smith Hospital in 2013, he traveled to West Africa with his wife and two children to work with the Christian aid group Samaritan’s Purse.
Then the Ebola outbreak started in March. Samaritan’s Purse asked Brantly to direct the group’s Ebola Consolidated Case Management Center in Monrovia.
Since then, about 1,200 people have fallen ill with Ebola, and more than 670 have died across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. There’s no treatment for the disease, which spreads when people come into direct contact with bodily fluids, such as saliva, blood, diarrhea and vomit.
Brantly knew providing health care in Liberia would be challenging — and that was even before the Ebola epidemic. But caring for people in need, his friends say, was always what he wanted to do.
Even now, Brantly wants people to focus on the larger epidemic, not just his illness, McRay says. “Many people are infected with Ebola in Africa, and many people are not surviving,” he says. “And Kent does not see his situation as unique in any way.”
Two other members of Brantly’s medical team in Liberia also contracted Ebola. One died. The other, American Nancy Writebol, is still sick.
Brantly says he isn’t sure how he got infected. He’s certain he didn’t violate any safety guidelines.
Samaritan’s Purse is working with the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to identify the source of contamination at the ward, says the group’s spokesperson, Melissa Strickland.
Brantly was working with nearly two dozen Ebola patients, but Strickland says he followed strict protocols. He covered every inch of his body before entering the Ebola ward in a protective suit. “It would take at least 30 minutes to get that suit on properly,” she says.
Although the mortality rate has been about 60 percent in this Ebola outbreak, doctors on the ground say good supportive care early does help. And ideally, Brantly would be evacuated to a hospital in Europe or the U.S., Strickland says. So far that hasn’t been possible.
“There are organizations that will not transport Ebola patients,” Strickland says, “either because they don’t have the isolation protocols in place that would be necessary, or because of the fear of transporting an Ebola patient.”
Brantly’s family returned to the U.S. last week for a visit, before Brantly began showing symptoms. It’s highly unlikely that his family caught the virus from him, the CDC says.
hide captionA fisherman pulls a basket filled with anchovies aboard a fishing boat off of Peru’s northern port of Chimbote, in 2012. Peru is the world’s top fishmeal exporter, producing about a third of worldwide supply.
Those shining attributes have earned them plenty of nods from doctors and environmentalists alike, as we’ve reported. They’re not among the most popular seafoods in the U.S., though, partly because of their fishy taste.
But if you knew that eating these fish would mean shrinking your carbon footprint a wee bit, would that convince you to buy them over say, that bag of frozen shrimp you just mindlessly threw into your grocery cart?
Robert Parker is betting that if you care about eating greener, you’ll want to know about how much fuel it takes to catch your favorite fish. He’s a Ph.D. candidate from Nova Scotia, studying the fishing industry at the University of Tasmania in Australia.
Parker and Peter Tyedmers, who directs the School for Resource and Environmental Studies at Dalhousie University in Halifax, recently published an analysis of a fishing industry fuel use database Tyedmers developed. Their analysis finds that fisheries producing the small fish – sardines, mackerel, and anchovies — are “among the most energy and carbon-efficient forms of protein production.” The paper appeared in the journal Fish and Fisheries on July 4.
They also found that fishing for shrimp and lobster are almost as fuel-intensive as raising livestock. As we’ve reported, raising livestock has more of an impact on the environment than any other food we eat.
For example, Parker says, to catch a metric ton (about 2,200 pounds) of sardines or anchovies, it takes about 5 gallons of fuel.
In contrast, to get the same amount of lobster or shrimp, you’d burn an average of 2,100 to 2,600 gallons of fuel.
Now, U.S. and Canadian lobster outfits “are a bit more efficient because of the higher lobster biomass in the ocean,” he says. But they are still burning close to 264 gallons of fuel to catch those 2,200 pounds of crustacean.
So why is all this fuel getting burned? As the fishing industry has evolved in the last century from throwing out a few lines over the local dock to industrialized operations, we’ve been able to fish in more parts of the ocean and freeze our catch right on the boats.
But “a consequence of many of these advancements has been the increased reliance of fisheries on larger vessels, the motorization of fishing fleets with more powerful engines and the increased demand by fisheries for fossil fuels to power everything from propulsion and gear operation to on-board processing, refrigeration and ancillary services such as navigational aids,” the paper says.
And the boats – not the packing plants or trucks transporting fish to the store — are where the bulk of the burn comes from, Parker says. The energy needed to get fish to the dock accounts for 60 to 90 percent of the fishing industry’s total energy use and emissions.
“Fuel is the second biggest cost” in fish production, says Parker, and labor is first, so to encourage more efficient fisheries – and fewer greenhouse gas emissions — we should be “implementing measures shown to decrease fuel consumption.”
And what people do with the fish is inefficient, too. Much of the mackerel, sardines and anchovies get turned to livestock and aquaculture feed, rather than going right to hungry humans. So we’re “taking an efficient system and making it part of an average or inefficient system,” he says.
But getting more people to eat these fish is a tough sell, at least on this side of the Atlantic. Parker himself admits that he wasn’t always a herring fan, but on a trip to Denmark, that’s what was served at the hotel breakfast, so he gave it a try.
Now, he’s a believer. “If you have pickled herring, it’s one of the most delicious things,” he says.
Parker acknowledges that his fuel and fishing study has some limitations. For starters, its largely built from fisheries data from Europe and Australia, where the best records are kept, as well as some from North America. The database does not have much data on fuel use and fishing in the developing world — yet.
Also, he notes, fisheries are not generally giant offenders when it comes to the food system’s carbon emissions. “Fisheries in general have a relatively low carbon footprint when it comes to food … they don’t have [the] methane associated with cows, and feed costs,” he says.
But they hope their work goes beyond emissions. “We’re looking at all the different factors now – we need to feed people, we need to support rural communities, we need to provide healthy and high quality food to people – one niche issue is the role of fisheries in fuel consumption.”
hide captionA health worker gives a child the polio vaccine in Bannu, Pakistan, June 25. More than a quarter-million children in Taliban-controlled areas are likely to miss their immunizations.
A. Majeed/AFP/Getty Images
A. Majeed/AFP/Getty Images
Last January Salma Jaffar was shot while she was going door to door in Karachi, giving children drops of the polio vaccine.
“Even when they took out the pistol, I couldn’t understand why he was taking out the gun,” Jaffar says of the two men who pulled up on a motorcycle and started shooting at the vaccination team.
“But when he opened fire, that is when I thought it was the end of the life,” she says. “My first thought was that I won’t be able to see my children again.”
hide captionSalma Jaffar was shot four times while vaccinating children in Karachi last January. She survived. But more than 60 polio workers have been killed in Pakistan over the past two years.
Jaffar was shot four times: twice in her arm and twice in her chest. She spent the next three weeks in an intensive care unit.
Three of her colleagues weren’t as fortunate and died in the attack. They are among the more than 60 polio workers who have been killed since the Pakistani Taliban banned polio immunization in 2012.
Today the militant group continues to threaten to kill not only vaccinators but also parents who get their children immunized. That threat has had a chilling effect on anti-polio efforts nationwide. And it completely halted vaccination drives in some Taliban-controlled areas. It’s in these places that the crippling virus has come roaring back — and threatened to stymie global efforts to wipe out polio.
The worldwide campaign to eradicate polio has been going on for more than two decades. It has cost more than $10 billion. Now the success of the campaign hinges on whether Pakistan can control the virus.
At its peak in the 1950s, polio paralyzed about 350,000 people a year around the world. This year, so far, there have been only 128 cases recorded. Ninety-nine of them have been in Pakistan. And the South Asian nation is the only country in the world where the number of polio cases is rising significantly.
The edict by the Islamic militants to ban immunization was in response to the CIA’s setting up a fake hepatitis vaccination campaign in Pakistan. The covert operation was part of an attempt by the U.S. spy agency to verify whether Osama bin Laden was holed up in the city of Abbottabad.
hide captionA polio vaccination booth in Rawalpindi.
The polio problem in Pakistan right now is a result of the CIA’s actions in the country, says Mufti Muneeb Ur Rehman, a prominent and moderate cleric in Pakistan. He personally accepts the polio vaccine. He encourages people at his mosque to get their kids vaccinated.
“But there are certain areas in Pakistan where the people resist [the polio vaccine] because the CIA used the polio campaign for intelligence purposes,” he says.
Like many Pakistanis, Ur Rehman erroneously says the CIA operation against bin Laden used a polio campaign for cover, even though it actually used a fake hepatitis B campaign. “The one who can use hepatitis for intelligence,” he says, “they can use polio for intelligence.”
And the CIA’s actions were an insult to Pakistan, he says. As a result, more children are now being paralyzed by polio in Pakistan than anywhere else in the world.
Before the Taliban prohibited polio vaccinations, the country was on the verge of eliminating the disease. In 2012 it notched only 58 cases. “The whole thing just then got reversed when vaccinators started to be targeted and killed,” says Elias Durry, who leads the World Health Organization’s polio operations in Pakistan.
The Pakistani government is doing what it can to keep the outbreak from spilling out of the Taliban-controlled area and into the rest of the country, Durry says.
The Health Ministry runs mass immunization campaigns that involve about 200,000 vaccinators, trying to reach millions of kids. There are polio roadblocks on major highways, where vaccinators immunize kids passing through in cars and trucks. Vaccinators also ply bus stations, railway stops and even airports immunizing any child that appears to be under age 5.
But all this hasn’t been enough to wipe out the disease. As long as the Taliban blocks vaccinations in the territory it controls, Durry says, the virus can’t be defeated either in Pakistan or the world.
The immunization ban is in the North and South Waziristan districts, along the Afghanistan border. Officials think about 250,000 kids there are missing their vaccinations.
In the regions under government control, the country is doing all the right things to curb the polio outbreak, Durry says. “But to win the war,” he warns, “we have to be able to access children who are currently not available for vaccination.”
And there’s no indication when the armed conflict between the Taliban and the government will subside — or when the Taliban will allow vaccinators to reach all the children of Pakistan.