Health measures for IDPs: K-P govt steps up emergency polio drive

Govt sets up immunisation check posts in province.

Our Correspondent March 26, 2012


As fears rise on polio spiralling out of control in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), the provincial government has decided to extend the age limit for vaccination and establish polio immunisation checkpoints in the province.

The check posts have therefore, been established en route to the Jalozai Camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from Bara, in addition to an anti-polio campaign within the camp itself.

The decision was taken in a meeting at the office of the chief secretary in response to a letter sent by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The organisation said it fears that the influx of IDPs from Bara could have catastrophic repercussions.  Thousands of IDP children have been left unvaccinated since 2009, and could be instrumental in spreading the virus to Peshawar and Nowshera, the letter said.

“They are convinced that unless the campaign covers every single individual of every age group in Bara and Jalozai ,especially children up to the age of 15, the situation may only get nastier for polio eradication partners in K-P,” said an official of the health department. He added that the steps were taken in light of recommendations from the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) and WHO.

“There have been 38 polio cases in Khyber Agency since 2010, which means 7,600 silent infections,” he said. As per international health emergency practices, the age limit of children is increased to 15 years, so that the risk of any child serving as a carrier is also eliminated.

According to details of the polio drive, the emergency response has been divided into three stages starting today (Monday).  Children up to the age of 15 residing in the camp and up to the age of 5 residing in nearby districts will be immunised followed by another campaign in a week’s time, which will provide vaccination for measles as well a Vitamin A drops. The last emergency response stage will be held during the second week of April that will focus only on the polio virus by administering the oral polio vaccine.

For the emergency campaign starting today, a total of 25,000 children up to the age of 15 will be targeted with the oral polio vaccine through 70 polio teams, whereas 7,000 children outside the IDP camp will be targeted through 33 polio teams. An estimated 15,000 families have made their way to the Jalozai IDP camp. Almost 6,000 families are living in nearby areas.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 26th, 2012.


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