Crippling disease: Anti-polio drive to start simultaneously in Pakistan, Afghanistan

Published: May 13, 2017


ISLAMABAD: Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan currently are at their lowest ebb. But despite heightened tensions between both the neighbouring countries after bloody clashes near the Chaman border, both the countries continue to fulfil their commitment to confront the crippling polio disease together.

Islamabad and Kabul are all set to jointly launch the final national anti-polio drive of the current low transmission season from May 15 to 19.

National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC) for polio head Dr Rana Safdar, while talking to The Express Tribune, said: The nationwide anti-polio drive will also be carried out simultaneously in the villages on both sides of the Pak-Afghan border.

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He said the situation in Chaman area along the Pak-Afghan border in Balochistan was returning to normal and routine life activities had been restored.

“Currently, forces are stationed in these areas to provide security cover to the census team which is a plus point for polio teams as well, as they will get additional security cover,” he said.

Safdar said earlier Pakistan and Afghanistan had decided to carry out anti-polio drives on the same dates for strengthening cooperation between the two countries in their fight against polio and now fulfilling their commitments.

Involve the community, eradicate polio

Sharing details of the upcoming nationwide anti-polio drive, he said: “Pakistan will start its final anti-polio drive of the current low transmission season from May 15 to 19 in all districts/areas of the country except Karachi, Upper Dir, Buner and Ghotki where it will start from May 23 due to the ongoing census.

The programme will target a total of 37.76 million children under five years of age out of which 18.8 million in Punjab, 8.6 million in Sindh, 5.6 million in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 2.4 million in Balochistan, 1.042 million in Fata, 0.744 million in AJK, 0.235 million in Gilgit-Baltistan and 0.312 million children in Islamabad by utilising over 42 million doses of bOPV (Bivalent oral poliovirus vaccine).

Along with bOPV, 35.7 million doses of Vitamin-A will also be administered to the children aged between 6 and 59 months. In the core reservoir areas covered through the Community Based Vaccination (CBV) approach, it will be a five-day campaign and two days catch-up, while in the mobile team areas, there will be a three days campaign and 1 or 2 day catch-up, he said.

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A total of 250,000 personnel will strive to achieve set targets across the country, including 24,564 Area In-charges, 8,242 UC Medical Officers, 188,133 Mobile, 11,116 Fixed and 13,049 Transit team members.

“The current polio epidemiology in the country is best ever observed. Cases have declined from 306 in 2014 to 54 in 2015 and only 20 in 2016,” said Safdar.

The momentum is maintained in 2017 where the current case count of two – one each from Lodhran and Diamer, compares to 11 during the same period in 2016.

Polio job ‘almost done but not finished’

“The performance of Pakistan has been acknowledged during the recent meeting of the Independent Monitoring Board in London,” he said.

Meanwhile, Coordinator Emergency Centre Balochistan Syed Faisal Ahmed has said that a three-day polio immunisation campaign would kick off from May 15 in 30 districts of the province and preparations in this regard have been finalised.

He shared these views while addressing a press conference in his office with religious leaders and paramedical staff on Friday.

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He said during the three-day polio immunisation, as many as 247,382 children would be administered polio immunisation drops along with vitamin A drops, adding that 9,760 teams would be participating in the campaign which includes 8,234 mobile, 870 fixed site and 656 transit point teams.

Syed Faisal said that security arrangements have also been finalised. The Balochistan Levies, police and FC have been deployed for the security of polio workers.

He said only a group of paramedics is on strike while all others are with them.

[With additional input from Mohammad Zafar in Qutta]

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