About 200,000 children worldwide are at risk of being infected with the polio virus exported from Pakistan, if the $12 billion anti-polio campaigns across the country fail.
This was said by World Health Organization (WHO) Emergencies and Country Collaboration Assistant Director-General-Polio Dr Bruce Aylward in a press conference on Tuesday.
Dr Aylward said in May, countries across the globe will gather in Geneva for a world health assembly. There, health experts will closely monitor the status of polio eradication across the globe. Pakistan and Nigeria will be the focus of the session, he said, and if the situation in the two is found unsatisfactory then a global polio emergency will be declared.
WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region Regional Director Dr Ala Alwan said Pakistan is one of only three countries that never stopped transmission of polio virus. Currently half of the children in the world who contract polio are from Pakistan, he added.
“[However,] we are hopeful that Pakistan will be successful in eradicating polio as many other countries, which were in worse crises than Pakistan successfully eradicated [the virus] completely,” he said.
He announced that Edhi foundation has joined hands with the WHO in their campaign for polio eradication. Parents will be able to call polio team members at their door step by calling 115, in addition to the option of getting them vaccinated at Edhi health centres across the country, Dr Alwan added.
Dr Alwan said one of the major reasons behind the polio outbreak in the country is the migration of people from Bara tehsil in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. There has not been a single anti-polio campaign in Bara since 2009, he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 21st, 2012.