A fourth case of polio reported last week from southern Punjab brought the total number of cases for 2011 close to 200. This compared to 144 cases for 2010, which is a disturbing increase in the incidence of the disease. As it is, Pakistan now ranks as the country where the largest numbers of polio cases have been discovered. Experts attribute this to poor administrative practices, poor coverage in conflict-hit areas and the mass movement of people every now and then.
The fact is that a significant number of children who have been paralysed by polio had indeed been vaccinated. This applies to the latest case in Vehari as well. The father of the one year old boy who can now no longer walk or crawl says that he had insured all the scheduled vaccines where administrated to his child. Other parents have told similar stories. Concern has also been expressed in the media about the quality of the vaccine and whether it truly works at all. The growing evidence that there may be problems is disturbing.
Worst of all, Pakistan appears to be losing its battle against a disease which most other countries around the world have been able to eradicate. Polio is endemic in only four countries: Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan. This is shameful. A decade ago, Pakistan appeared to have been winning the war on polio. We are now quite obviously losing it. More and more children are struck down by the virus each year. The National Polio Emergency, declared early this year, seems to have had very little impact in stopping the spread. This is something we need to think about very seriously. We simply cannot afford a worsening of the situation. We already have polio in districts where it had not been known for years. We certainly do not want it to reach other places and to affect the lives of other families in such a negative fashion.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 5th, 2012.