PESHAWAR: As laboratory results of environmental samples collected from district Kohat test positive for carrying poliovirus and its genetical sequencing traced all the way back to Afghanistan, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government has decided to track the ‘moving population’ in the province as a vaccination drive begins on Monday (today).
The step was taken after officials dealing with polio eradication campaigns in the province confirmed that the virus had been found in sewerage water samples collected from Kohat and had been traced back to Afghanistan.
Children moving from one district to another, or even leaving for other provinces, will now be traced via specially designed tracking systems for which the government has empowered commissioners and deputy commissioners across the province.
“We have always been missing children when they were not available at their homes during the anti-polio campaigns and this tracking system will help us find the kids wherever they are,” a senior health official dealing with polio eradication campaigns told The Express Tribune.
The official, who requested to remain anonymous since he was not entitled to speak to the media, stated that ‘not available’ children, apart from ‘refusal cases’, were hampering ongoing efforts to stop the transmission of the crippling virus.
“We have repeatedly said that even one child misses the anti-polio drops, it is enough for a massive [polio] outbreak,” the official said, adding, “We, at the same time, have been saying that this virus can be eradicated from the region in only one campaign but only if all the children are administered the vaccine.”
Last week, K-P Chief Secretary Azam Khan had stressed upon the deputy commissioners to ensure the highest quality of polio campaigns in their respective districts with a special focus on mobile population coming from Afghanistan and other districts.
While chairing a meeting of Provincial Task Force, which periodically reviews the progress of the Pakistan Polio Programme in the province to devise future roadmap, Azam stated that the K-P government was fully focused on making the polio programme a success by ensuring that no child was missed during the anti-polio campaign.
Moreover, the government is launching another three-day anti-polio vaccination campaign which is scheduled to begin on Monday (today).
The government hopes to administer the anti-polio vaccine to over 6.5 million children below the five-years-of-age, across K-P and the federally administered tribal areas (Fata).
The drive will also target children living in camps for internally displaced people and Afghan refugees. K-P only reported one case last year, from Lakki Marwat. On the other hand, Fata has been polio-free for around two years.
Besides the one case in K-P, seven other cases were reported around the country last year with one each from Punjab and Gilgit-Baltistan, two from Sindh and three poliovirus cases were confirmed from Balochistan in 2017.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 12th, 2018.