Due to inaccessibility and security concerns, the future of 71 per cent polio cases reported from Fata and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa remains a challenge for the health cluster.
According to the health cluster, of the 59 cases reported so far nationwide, 42 are from K-P and Fata. “We have to work on improvement in inaccessibility which is the major challenge and cater to the needs of those in the north. In July, 300,000 children were inaccessible and every third child in Fata was missed,” Dr Nima Saeed Abid from the World Health Organisation (WHO) told The Express Tribune.
The anti-polio campaign has been launched for children between the ages of 0-59 months and has three cycles. A total of 33 million children will be targeted this year across Pakistan out of which 22 million belong to the flood-hit areas. The first phase of the campaign began on September 27 and will end on September 29, targeting 20 million children. The second phase starts from October 11 to October 13 and will target 13 million children.
For the anti-measles campaign 25 million children have been targeted across the country out of which 17 million belong to flood-hit areas. “7.5 million children will be targeted in the first phase in the 37 most affected districts out of 77 and the remaining will be treated in the second phase,” Dr. Azhar Abid, Health Specialist Unicef told The Express Tribune. “Compared to last year, we did not see such a steep turn due to the floods, so far the measures taken have helped maintain the figure, however we are at the peak transmission period and the figure might change,” added Abid.
The WHO, being one of the implementing partners of the ministry of health with the immunisation campaign, believes that the cluster might have to face other challenges including the provision of the right quality of vaccination. The vaccine used for the campaign is procured by Unicef and it is prequalified by WHO. “We have to provide the best quality available in the global market. The quality of the campaign is a concern as a large number of health workers have been affected due to the floods, reaching out to this large number with the right quality would be a challenge this year,” added Abid. “More diseases have flared up because of the floods which have also heightened the risk of the existing diseases. Due to the displacement and children moving around it is now possible for the disease to be transmitted easily compared to last year,” added Abid.
“Everyone needs to scale up their efforts. Cold chain is to be maintained such as the vaccine refrigeration, in situations as such the default rate increases, parents lose EPI cards, they forget the time of the last vaccination and there is doubling of injections. A lot needs to be taken into consideration before launching such a vast campaign targeting millions of people,” said Dr Ahreema Hashmi from Merlin, an NGO facilitating the government with the campaign by setting up mobile clinics and fixed centres at flood-hit areas across the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 29th, 2010.