Pakistan: Where conspiracy theories can cost a child’s life
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
When health workers approached Zulfikar Quaid about inoculating his three children against polio, Quaid picked up an old cricket bat inside his home and waved it at them. “Get out of my house,” he yelled. “My children are Muslim and we don’t need your dirty Hindu drugs.”
The health workers he was yelling at were stunned — though they’d become accustomed to hearing some Karachi residents’ resistance to vaccines, they’d never heard it linked to a Hindu conspiracy before.
Zarmina, the lead health worker, asked Quaid’s wife, who was standing beside her husband, why they were refusing the drugs. “The Hindus are lacing it with pig’s blood to send us all to hell,” she explained. Quaid was still holding the bat and waving it menacingly, and Zarmina, by now familiar with anti-vaccine fervor, decided that a quick retreat was the safest option for her. She motioned to her partner that they should leave immediately. In the past 18 months, 34 health workers had been killed for attempting to administer the polio vaccine.