The number of children infected by polio has risen to 50 in the strife-torn Khyber Agency after a seven-month-old baby girl was diagnosed with the crippling virus, health officials said on Saturday.
Warring factions have made it difficult for teams to immunise children in the region.
The latest casualty in a long sequence of children to contract polio is Halima Bibi, daughter of Faisal Khan, resident of Mirdadkhel, according to Dr Sher Amin Afridi, health communication officer for Khyber Agency.
Dr Afridi highlighted that it was very difficult for polio teams to reach the remote Tirah valley and Bara where hundreds of children missed the vaccination. “This year, only 14 children were reported with polio compared to 36 cases registered in the Khyber Agency last year.” He claimed to have controlled the spread of the virus by 50 per cent. “Most cases originated in areas where there was poor law and order.”
Another health official, who requested his name be withheld, told this scribe that polio teams could not access children in more than one third of the agency because it is a conflict zone.
He, however, said that polio teams should vaccinate children by any means possible to stop the gangrenous virus from multiplying. He predicted a human disaster if these children are not vaccinated in future polio campaigns.
Residents of the Khyber Agency are greatly concerned over the rise in the number of cases. Malik Wazir said polio immunisation teams claim to have vaccinated every child but they have failed to control the virus despite the facilities provided to them. Malik Mian Jan Afridi stated the government has failed to provide health facilities to the tribal people.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 20th, 2011.