Polio spread feared as 500,000 Pakistanis uprooted

GENEVA: About 50,000 Pakistanis have crossed into eastern Afghanistan to escape air strikes over the past 10 days and 435,000 have fled within their homeland, which could fuel the spread of polio as many are not vaccinated, UN agencies said on Tuesday.Military gave residents of North Waziristan until the end of Monday to leave the remote mountainous region ahead of a widely anticipated major ground offensive by the army against militants.The religious leadership in NWA has banned polio vaccination for the past two years, demanding a halt to US drone strikes, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The number of Pakistanis who have fled to Afghanistan since military operations began on June 15 jumped from 7,000 last Friday to an estimated 50,000, Dan McNorton of the UN refugee agency told a briefing. Most are in Khost and Paktika provinces. “There was a temporary halt to military operations, to air strikes on Sunday ... So that why we have seen the figures rise particularly quickly in the last couple of days,” McNorton said.Most of the 435,000 displaced within Pakistan are in Bannu, Lakki Marsat, Dera Ismail Khan and Tank in Kyber Pakhtunkhwa province, but some arrived in Punjab and Balochistan, he said. 

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