PESHAWAR: Even though polio infections were down from a whopping 306 in 2014 to just eight in 2017, health officials have focused on key reservoirs and ‘transmission hubs’ such as Peshawar to tackle the spread of polio in the country.
At a recent meeting of the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) for Polio Eradication Initiative (PEI) in the federal capital, goals were set and forwarded to the concerned officials working at emergency operation centres across the country.
According to officials privy to the Islamabad meeting late last year, a Northern Corridor Action Plan (NCAP) has been devised for the eradication of the poliovirus.
Officials tasked with eradicating the virus in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) said that one of the key recommendations included in the plan was to further accelerate efforts to stop the virus’ transmission in Peshawar — where environmental samples have tested positive for the virus over past three months.
Second, officials said that the group had stressed on targeting the migratory population in the region — specifically which travels to and from Afghanistan’s northern areas, i.e. Nangrahar and Peshawar. They added that Peshawar, in particular, had been termed as a transit route for the virus between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“Yes, from Peshawar, the virus travels to other parts of the country and wherever we have found the virus, following genetical sequencing, it has always been traced back to Afghanistan,” a senior health official dealing with anti-polio vaccination campaigns told The Express Tribune.
The official, who refused to share identity since he was not entitled to speak to media, stated that since people kept moving between Afghanistan and Pakistan, the virus travelled the same way.
“Peshawar remains a priority since it is the transit route that is frequented by the Afghan population, particularly from the Nangarhar province where the virus is in circulation,” was the way TAG Chairman Jean Mark emphasised while prioritising efforts in Peshawar during a meeting Mark with K-P Chief Secretary Azam Khan in the provincial capital on Friday.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 20th, 2018.