Polio's Comeback: The Unexpected Fallout From The Bin Laden Raid

by Lindsay Shapka in ,


Over the last few weeks, National Geographic has run a fascinating series of articles about how the raid on the bin Laden compound in Pakistan in 2011 has led to an unexpected result: the reemergence of Polio and attacks on aid workers. 

While I recommend that you read all four of these intriguing pieces (links below), here is the Coles notes version. 

A doctor who was vaccinating children was used by the CIA to gather blood samples (under the guise of giving vaccinations) from a compound that the American government thought may contain bin Laden. The compound guards did not allow the doctor to enter when he arrived to do his vaccinations, but gave him the number of someone to contact for future permission. This contact turned out to be a known associate of bin Laden and was the crucial bit of information that led to his takedown. 

What this did, however, was embarrass the Pakistani government who exposed the doctor and the CIA for using an aid organization as a way to gather information. Long story short, this has led to targeted assassinations of polio vaccination teams, propaganda being spread that foreign health workers are not to be trusted.

These factors, and the movement of people displaced by fighting, has allowed Polio to spread across Pakistan and into other countries in the middle east. A huge issue when it comes to helping refugees, and trying to contain a disease that spreads quickly.

Check out the articles below:

PART 1: How The bin Laden Raid Put Vaccinators Under The Gun In Pakistan  By Tim McGirk

PART 2: He Led The CIA To bin Laden — And Unwittingly Fueled A Vaccine Backlash By Alexander Mullaney and Syeda Amna Hassan

PART 3: Taliban Assassins Target Pakistan's Polio Vaccinators By Tim McGirk

PART 4: Fighting Polio Amid the Chaos of Syria’s Civil War By Jason Motlagh