DUNIYAPUR: There’s polio in the water, according to residents of a number of southern districts of Punjab.
This widely held opinion was the most significant finding that The Express Tribune made while accompanying a Unicef team in a vaccination campaign.
Noorul Amin of Chak 16-M in Lodhran explained that leaky sewerage pipes have contaminated the groundwater and that children that drink this water are at risk of getting polio.
There has been at least one confirmed case to back up his theory.
The follow-up campaign in Duniyapur, Kehror Pakka, and Lodhran was ordered by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif after a polio case was detected in Duniyapur.
In February, four-month-old Ali, son of Mohammad Afzal Baloch and a resident of Chak Number 15 M, of Duniyapur, Lodhran District, said his son was suffering from a fever when vaccinators came around and he told them he would get his son vaccinated after two days. The anti-polio team marked the child vaccinated in their list based on the man’s assurance.
Afzal, a small farmer, admitted that he forgot to get his son vaccinate and a few days later, the child was admitted to Victoria Hospital, Bahawalpur and diagnosed with polio.
The vaccinators were suspended for negligence.
Afzal said the team was not responsible for his negligence, it was altogether his “own fault”.
But he also claimed that the virus was spreading due to poor sewerage and drainage in the area.
In January, traces of the polio virus were found in samples collected from sewerage water in Kotla Fateh Khan.
After Ali’s case arose in the next campaign, District Health Officer Tariq Gilani started keeping a closer eye on the March follow-up and vouched that the workers had been performing their duties diligently, an assessment that the observer teams also agreed with.
PML-N MPA Jahangir Sultan Bhutta was accompanying the follow-up vaccinators to observe their work and see if vaccinators were negligent. Talking to The Express Tribune, Bhutta said Chief Minister Shahbaz had taken serious notice of the issue and said that no negligence would be tolerated.
But neither spoke of the water.