The Power of Polio

Syria’s Polio Outbreak Is a Reminder of the Disease’s Power.

Polio has returned to Syria, which had been free of the potentially paralyzing and at times fatal disease since 1999. “There are ten cases confirmed right now in the Deir Al Zour province” in northeast Syria and 12 more suspected cases, says Oliver Rosenbauer, spokesman for the World Health Organization’s Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

The cases are mostly in young children, but the threat remains for anyone who is unvaccinated.  Because of the civil war, that could potentially be a lot of people.  Polio is endemic in only 3 countries – Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria, and the number of cases worldwide has dropped dramatically since 1988.

But all is not well, as

 this year’s spring outbreaks in previously polio-free Somalia and Kenya reminded us. In addition, the discovery of sewage samples containing poliovirus in Israel has led to a countrywide campaign to offer oral polio vaccines to children between the ages of four months and nine years, as a precaution.

With large numbers of refugees moving around the Middle East, the potential for problems is high.  How will vaccines be provided for all the people who need them?  Who will deliver the medicines?  In the 3 countries where it is endemic there is high distrust of the vaccine.  Many uneducated people think it is a plot to either cause women to be infertile, or give people a disease.  Much needs to be done to complete the task of eradicating polio, like we have done with smallpox.

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More on Child Brides

Afghan child bride’s in-laws sentenced for torture – Houston Chronicle.

Her torturers have been sentenced to prison, but is it enough?

The plight of 15-year-old Sahar Gul captivated the nation and set off a storm of international condemnation when it came to light in late December. Officials said her husband’s family kept her in a basement for six months after her arranged marriage, ripping out her fingernails, breaking her fingers and torturing her with hot irons in an attempt to force her into prostitution.

Her uncle alerted authorities, and she was rescued; her attackers were sentenced to 10 years in prison.  Her husband and his brother are still on the run, but her mother-in-law, father-in-law, and sister-in-law were sentenced to 10 years each.  They kept her in the basement, pulled out her fingernails, and did other unspeakable things in an attempt to force her into prostitution to support them.

This is the fate of many Afghan women.  Although marriage is illegal for girls under 16 years of age,

the United Nations agency UN Women estimates that half of all girls are forced to marry under age 15.

What future do they have, with no schooling, no support, and no opportunity?  How can we, the most fortunate people in the world, stand by while this goes on under our watch?

…ending abuse remains a huge challenge in Afghanistan’s patriarchal society, where traditional practices include child marriage, giving girls away to settle debts or pay for their relatives’ crimes and so-called honor killings in which women seen as disgracing their families are murdered by their relatives.

Support the Women for Afghan Women, Young Women for Change, and other groups that are working to help Afghani women through these tough times.

Because You Asked Today in Class

I saw this in the news, so I’m sharing:

400 Girls And Women In Afghanistan Are In Prison For Running Away From Forced Marriages And Beatings.

Up to 400 women and girls are being held in Afghan prisons for “moral crimes” including running away from home to escape beatings or forced marriage according to a study.

Virtually all teenage girls held in prison are accused of immorality, either extramarital sex or running away, and around half of adult women inmates.

In the ten years since the US invaded the country with the goal of overthrowing the Taliban and bringing human rights to the country, not much has changed.  Girls are forced into marriage at an early age, and when they run away, they are jailed.  The Afghan Supreme Court has ruled this is ok, since they are being “protected” from prostitution and promiscuity.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said: “It is shocking that 10 years after the overthrow of the Taliban, women and girls are still imprisoned for running away from domestic violence or forced marriage.

“No one should be locked up for fleeing a dangerous situation even if it’s at home. President Karzai and Afghanistan’s allies should act decisively to end this abusive and discriminatory practice.”

The report, called “I Had to Run Away,” details shocking stories of abuse in the poor, war-torn country.

The United Nations has estimated around three quarters of marriages in Afghanistan are forced and unmarried girls are also sometimes given, or exchanged, to resolve disputes or stand in place of a dowry.

Few women are able to gain divorces. If they run away instead, the husband’s family often press for a conviction of extramarital sex as well, as an extra punishment, the report found.

What will enable women to gain their rights?  What cultural values support the current system, and how can they be changed?  Why is this arrangement acceptable in this country (and others)?

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