It is clearly going to take much longer to eradicate the deadly polio virus from Sindh and Karachi in particular even though the initiative came so tantalisingly close to the finish line earlier this year. A year and a half after notching up zero cases of polio, the metropolis abruptly broke its envious record and joined other provinces in this ignominous scourge in August 2017. Four months later, a second case surfaced in what were seen as mainly Afghan-inhabited settlements of Karachi. Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only countries in the world with reported cases of polio. Rather than focus on these disappointing developments, we need to recap and commend all that had been done by different stakeholders to restrict the disease for the better part of 18 or so months.
In the end the year 2017 mirrored the polio statistics collated for the year 2016 when eight separate polio cases were reported. To understand the hard-won progress made in stemming the threat, we need to look over the figures in the preceding years. For instance, the polio threat, if anything, has diminished over the years from 30 in 2014 to 12 in 2015. The one common and recognisable problem is the collective failure of parents to understand the importance of immunisation. It has been proven that even a couple of missed polio drops can prove fatal for children. Such neglect can bring lifetime disability to children — much to the despair of their parents. The realisation comes much too late. For others, tragedy strikes because of a particular mindset or belief that vaccination will do greater harm in the long run. If the battle against polio is to be successful in the future, the authorities will have to devise a more potent instrument to check vaccination refusals and achieve 100 per cent immunisation in each anti-polio initiative undertaken by the state. Until then we cannot eradicate polio from the country or even the province.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 1st, 2018.