KARACHI: The recent spike in polio cases is a result of problems created against the polio vaccine in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, which brought immunisation drives to a standstill last year, claimed Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah.
He was talking to the media after inaugurating a seven-day vaccination campaign by administering polio drops to children at Rural Health Centre, Baldia, on Monday.
“The increase of 30 cases in 2019 is the result of that stalemate [last year]; otherwise, we had come close to controlling polio and had only one case in 2017,” he stated, adding that five new cases had already been detected in 2020. “This is a painful development for me because I have been making efforts to eradicate the disease, but negative results have come up,” he deplored.
Shah said that there should have been a meeting of the National Polio Eradication Taskforce under the prime minister in November, but it could not be arranged. “Now, our strategy has changed to involve local bodies, civil society and parents to save our future generations from the crippling disease,” he explained.
“This is the question of our children – parents must decide where they want a healthy future for them or disability for their entire life,” he stated, urging parents across Pakistan to be responsible and make sure their children are immunised against polio.
The CM said that 2.3 million children would be targeted for immunisation in the week-long campaign, while another campaign would be launched in the remaining districts of Sindh on February 17, targeting 6.7 million children. He encouraged parents to take their children to hospitals for vaccination if they missed it during this round of campaigns.
He thanked the 13,000 workers participating in the polio drive, as well as the law enforcement personnel who are providing security for them. “All this is being done for the betterment of our children,” he said, adding that this campaign would be followed by more drives in March and April.
“Karachi happens to be the hub for local, national and trans-national population interactions in the country and, in turn, becomes the amplifier of not only local but also imported virus transmission. Nonetheless, our frontline workers are resilient,” an Emergency Operation Centre official told The Express Tribune.
Responding to a question, the chief minister said that local government bodies had to start a drive against stray dogs, in light of a rising number of dog attacks being reported. “I have given them special instructions to start a special drive and save people, particularly children, from dog bites,” he stated.
On the same day, it was revealed that the Sindh local government department has set up the 1093 helpline to receive public complaints such as those pertaining to stray dogs, water supply and sewerage across Sindh.
Local government secretary Roshan Ali Shaikh, in a meeting on Monday, said that the complaints would be forwarded to the relevant district and town authorities for immediate action.
Meanwhile, Sindh chief secretary Syed Mumtaz Ali Shah, who was chairing the meeting, directed officials to ensure the availability of anti-rabies vaccines and anti-snake venom at hospitals. He also ordered them to set up isolation wards in hospital, in view of the global coronavirus outbreak.
The meeting also reviewed the polio campaign, anti-encroachment drives, stray dog attacks and prices and hoarding of essential commodities.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 11th, 2020.