Heightened polio threat

TAG for polio eradication expresses deep concerns about alarming resurgence of polio in Pakistan

Editorial May 29, 2024


The Technical Advisory Group (TAG) for polio eradication has recently expressed deep concerns about the alarming resurgence of polio in Pakistan. Data presented at a TAG meeting in Qatar highlighted that Pakistan’s polio situation is now worse than that of the war-torn Afghanistan. This is a troubling and disheartening regression from the progress made in 2021.

The resurgence of the poliovirus in key areas such as Quetta, Karachi and the Peshawar-Khyber region signifies a significant setback for Pakistan’s public health efforts. Despite conducting four polio vaccination campaigns, the country has failed to achieve the desired results, indicating severe inefficiencies and underlying issues within the current polio eradication programme. This situation is not just a public health crisis but also a national embarrassment. It is clear that the current approach is not yielding the expected outcomes, necessitating a comprehensive review and overhaul. The government must also ensure that adequate resources are allocated for polio eradication. This includes not only financial support but also political will and administrative commitment. Nigeria, once a hotspot for polio, achieved polio-free status in 2020. Nigeria’s success stemmed from strong community engagement, extensive use of local health workers and high-level political commitment. Experts like Dr Faisal Shuaib, who led Nigeria’s National Primary Health Care Development Agency, could provide crucial guidance.

The resurgence of the virus in key areas is a concerning reminder that the current strategies are falling short. Now, more than ever, a new, more effective approach is crucial. By re-evaluating existing campaigns and tapping into international expertise, Pakistan needs to turn the tide against polio. It needs to be realised that is not just a fight against a disease, but a fight for the future of our children.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 29th, 2024.

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