Droning Polio: The Impact of Covert Drone Strikes on Polio Immunization Rates in Pakistan

Reviewed by Kunal Kanodia

Naina Qayyum’s paper, Droning Polio: The Impact of Covert Drone Strikes on Polio Immunization Rates in Pakistan, makes an interesting connection between polio immunization rates in Pakistan and covert U.S. drone strikes. She makes the case that there is a direct connection between these factors in Pakistan, which she achieves by focusing on the effect that this has on the Taliban’s reaction to polio immunization drives in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Qayyum uses focused empirical longitudinal data to measure the impact that drone strikes have in Pakistan and in Afghanistan for children receiving vaccination.

Qayyum uses Afghanistan’s case to emphasize the effect that drone strikes have for polio immunization in Pakistan. She shows through a very convincing empirical data structure that an increase in the number of drone strikes reduces the probability of a child receiving polio vaccination by 0.442 percentage points in both these countries; however in Afghanistan there is a negative casual relationship between these two factors while in Pakistan is a direct positive correlation. Later on in her conclusive discussion of this finding, she attributes this difference to several factors. There are five provinces in the Afghan side of the FATA compared to two on the Pakistani side (which can cause more regional variation), and Pakistan has higher incidences of polio than Afghanistan (and polio tends to be transmitted from Pakistan to Afghanistan).

This study is handicapped by the lack of clear evidence on how many children in Afghanistan are actually deprived of polio vaccines and consequently how many of these children risk contracting the disease of polio because of this in the first place. Given the many factors that Qayyum has herself outlined regarding the differences between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the paper might have been more effective if she had solely focused on Pakistan, drawing references from the Afghan scenario when and where relevant.

Nevertheless, this is a nuanced paper that does a great job of synthesizing empirical quantitative data with qualitative analysis to give us an overview of how drone strikes are affecting the health of Pakistan’s future generations.

See the full paper here!

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