Polio eradication setback: Another case surfaces in Khyber

Tribal areas still not accessible by teams administering vaccines


Sehrish Wasif June 11, 2012

ISLAMABAD: Despite deadlines and determined calls for its eradication, polio is far from becoming history in Pakistan.

Yet another case of type-1 poliovirus has surfaced in the Khyber Agency, the only tribal district in Asia where both type-1 and type-3 poliovirus are still prevalent.

And in the absence of concrete anti-polio efforts, the disease can spread quickly through the region’s children and, in turn, the rest of the country.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) confirmed the case from Khyber Agency on Sunday, raising the official national polio count to 22.

This is the 9th case from Khyber Agency and the 7th from Bara Tehsil this year. The victim is 18-month-old Mudassir, a resident of Akka Khel area. The child had not received any dose of oral polio vaccines either through routine or supplementary immunisation activities.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) officials, extraordinary measures are needed to counter the spread of polio in Khyber Agency. They maintain that access is urgently needed to ensure that all children are vaccinated. The officials feel special counters set up at different transit points such as railway stations and bus stops are not enough to curb the plague.

WHO’s senior coordinator for polio eradication, Dr Elias Durry, also feels special efforts need to be made to ensure that the virus does not spread. However, the prime minister’s focal person on the issue, Shahnaz Wazir Ali has repeatedly cited security concerns, saying many tribal areas cannot be accessed by polio teams due to the ongoing militancy.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 11th, 2012.

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