Limping towards polio eradication

According to WHO, nearly 80% of all polio cases reported from Nigeria, Afghanistan and India come from Pakistan.

Haris Masood Zubairi September 15, 2011

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Nigeria as the four ‘polio endemic’ countries of the world.

It’s distressing to learn that according to WHO surveys, nearly 80% of all polio cases reported from these states come from Pakistan, with 144 confirmed cases in 2010 and 57 reported during the first half of this year. This trend, despite consistent efforts to combat the disease through mass immunisation campaigns across urban and rural localities, poses many questions.

Health and social sector experts reiterate several obvious reasons for Pakistan’s inability to control polio like other countries, despite massive global support and funding. Many hold the inherent social and political corruption as culprit. While global health organisations offer funding and rely on government and local organisations to micro-manage the vaccination programmes, it has become a lucrative occupation for many to establish NGOs, acquire funds and deliver only a fraction of the resources to the intended people.

While illiteracy, conflict and religious extremism stand as great hurdles, the anti-west mindset has also shaped widespread misconceptions about the polio vaccine. Misguiding decrees by clerics and community elders have greatly impaired progress and it is commonly believed consumption of the vaccine’s droplets sterilises children as part of a western plot to control the Muslim and Pakistani population.

Meanwhile, below par water and sanitation conditions and displacement of entire communities following natural disasters, such as the 2005 earthquake and the 2010 floods make matters worse. With all these impediments at work, it isn’t surprising to see the number of polio cases climb in Pakistan while the rest of Asia is said to be very close to controlling its spread. And Pakistan’s failure at solving the problem has begun to put off the biggest supporters of its polio campaign.

The World Bank and the WHO have both asked Pakistan to take serious measures or suffer conversion of the World Bank’s grant for polio vaccination into a loan. Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft who funds some of the largest polio eradication programmes, has recently emphasised the need for Pakistan to uphold the efforts of the international community.

Haris Masood Zubairi A finance and audit professional with an interest in military affairs and socio-political issues. He contributes to several publications and has served on the editorial teams of two lifestyle magazines.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Caesar | 12 years ago | Reply It's so heartbreaking to observe how devastating slight carelessness by parents regarding their children's health can be. It becomes a matter of destroying an entire life. And there's no doubt the people who misguide would rot in hell. I've had a very good friend, coming from a very educated family, who somehow ended up being affected by polio in his childhood. He's a smart guy, full of energy and life, great sense of humour and cool to be around. It's just that his life which could have been perfect isn't and he walks with a limp. I'm just so proud and happy for him that his personality is strong and he's successful in his various roles, esp as a businessman.
a reader | 12 years ago | Reply lol@ Limping towards... I think that's a very appropriate headline!
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