KARACHI: The statistics on polio indicate that Pakistan has been the loser in the battle against the disease in the year 2011. Around 167 cases were detected – the highest number in the last decade.
A media briefing titled ‘Polio Outbreak and Awareness on Routine Immunisation’ was held on Thursday. More than 60 per cent of the total polio cases detected across the globe are in Pakistan. “The situation is critical,” said the minister for health, Dr Sagheer Ahmed. “Despite continuous efforts, polio has become a major drain on our health resources and has paralysed hundreds of children for life in the last year.”
He said that even a single case was a major cause of concern and a source of embarrassment for the country. Some people have attributed the recent polio outbreak in China to the prevalence of the disease in Pakistan.
What is even more alarming is the fact that some cases of the disease were detected in areas where the immunisation coverage was 97 per cent and the children in those regions had been administered doses several times.
“Several excuses have been made for the surge of polio cases in these areas, such as the influx of migrants in Karachi, contaminated water and hygiene standards,” said Ahmed.
But he was not willing to accept these excuses. “There has to be ownership from top to bottom on this issue. But this ownership does not mean anything if there is no effort to implement the campaigns,” he said. “Just attending high-level meetings and conferences is not enough, whether you are the DCO or the deputy commissioner. The ground implementation is essential.”
Ahmed urged high ranking officials to survey their respective areas and keep a close watch on routine immunisations. He asked them to tighten any loopholes and improve the coverage of the vaccination teams.
The secretary for health, Syed Hashim Raza Zaidi, said that another reason for routine immunisation (RI) rate were low was basic healthcare units were not maintaining standards of quality care.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 16th, 2011.