Immunisation teams have pulled off a major health coup in Tirah Valley, ensuring protection against polio for the first time since 2009.
Officials said on Tuesday that they have managed to vaccinate around 32,641 children against polio and other fatal illnesses, such as measles, in the valley, which had previously been inaccessible during polio drives.
The feat is all the more remarkable because up to 11 polio cases have been reported from Khyber Agency this year so far.
A total of 17,568 children were immunised with bivalent oral polio vaccine which, according to the World Health Organisation, is more effective against poliovirus type 1 and 3. Additionally, 11,626 children were administered vaccines against measles, while 3,889 newborns were vaccinated with the pentavalent vaccine, which protects children from up to five diseases.
More than 165,000 children across Khyber Agency had remained unimmunised against polio since September 2009. These included 33,000 children in Tirah Valley, where not a single child has ever been immunised with measles and pentavalent vaccines in the history of the country. However, they were receiving polio drops till September 2009.
“Security forces provide protection to polio teams and we have achieved 98% target in the Tirah Valley. The Ansarul Islam group also played a vital role in convincing local residents to get their children vaccinated against the crippling disease,” Fata Social Welfare Secretary Aftab Ahmad Durrani told The Express Tribune while confirming the development. “This is a big achievement for all stakeholders as 11 polio cases had been reported in Khyber Agency this year, due to inaccessibility of polio teams to some parts of the region,” Mazhar Nisar, the spokesman for the Prime Minister Secretariat for Polio Cell said.
He credited the prime minister’s focal person for polio eradication, Shehnaz Wazir Ali, Fata Additional Chief Secretary Dr Tashfeen Khan and Social Welfare Secretary Aftab Ahmad Durrani with this achievement.
Nisar said that around 117 social mobilisers are working in Fata to convince families in Tirah Valley in case they had any reservations against polio drops.
Fata health services director Dr Fawad Khan said locals had now realised that the eradication of polio from their areas was necessary and administering drops could save their children’s lives from the crippling disease.
Some 29 polio cases have been reported in Pakistan so far this year, from which 13 are from the Fata and eight from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 5th, 2012.