- The Washington Times - Friday, September 17, 2004

GAYA, India (AP) — Gearing up for the final push to wipe out polio, India has run into a hurdle in an eastern state, where poor, conservative communities are refusing to give polio drops to children because they distrust the medicine and its distributors.

The resistance could seriously hurt India’s chances of meeting a United Nations deadline for eradicating the potentially crippling disease worldwide by 2005.

Health workers dispensing polio drops in the slums of Gaya in Bihar state have met resistance from slum dwellers, who say the drops contain fertility-inhibiting or impotence-inducing drugs and are part of the government efforts to curb India’s growing population.

“They feel it will reduce fertility of future generations,” said Mahjabeen Anjum, a health worker participating in a polio vaccination drive.

Polio usually strikes children under 5 through contaminated drinking water and attacks the central nervous system, causing paralysis, muscular atrophy, deformation and, in some cases, death.

India has reported 29 new polio cases this year, after 260 last year and 1,556 in 2002. Seven of the cases detected this year were in Bihar.

Sanjeeda Khatoon, a vegetable vendor and mother of nine, told the Associated Press she had not allowed health workers to give the polio vaccine to her children.

“The government is more concerned with population control than the health of people,” Mrs. Khatoon said. “Neither I, nor my mother, nor even my mother’s mother was immunized, yet none of us got polio.”

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