Over 1.4 million children in the country missed polio vaccination owing to the worsening law, order and security situation during a three-day national polio immunisation campaign which commenced on April 15 with the goal of targeting 33.5 million children under five years of age.
Prime Minister’s Polio Monitoring and Coordination Cell noted that some districts had a large population of unvaccinated children under the age of five, who should be administered the vaccine during the first polio campaign of 2013.
A report compiled by the Polio Operation Room revealed that the campaign, hindered by varying factors in each province, fell short of its aims.
The 1.4 million children include the 809,225 who missed polio vaccination in Punjab, which is the highest figure from amongst all administrative divisions of the country. A total of 278,210 children went unvaccinated in Sindh, 173,111 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 37,016 in Balochistan, 31,048 in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, 10,513 in Islamabad and 833 in Gilgit-Baltistan.
However, Dr Altaf Boson, national coordinator for monitoring Pakistan’s polio vaccination programme termed the first national anti-polio campaign of 2013 a success as no untoward incident took place. The figures of the missed children cannot be considered as final because the polio cell is still waiting to receive statistics from all over the country, said Dr Boson.
Indeed, the total number of unvaccinated children documented in the report does not include the 260,000 children from the North and South Waziristan agencies, as those areas are inaccessible by teams owing to the 2012 ban on polio vaccination.
The last national anti-polio campaign held in October 2012 missed around one million children, including the 45,000 children whose guardians refused to allow for the vaccination. Later in March, during a sub-national immunisation drive, around 500,000 children were missed.
In Nasirabad, the campaign suffered a setback due to a strike by vaccination teams, causing rounds to begin a day late. Furthermore, in Khuzdar and Lasbela, the third day of the campaign was affected due to unrest in the area. In Washuk, the havoc wreaked by the April 13 earthquake made it impossible for teams to reach target areas.
Areas in the Frontier Region Peshawar such as Tapoo Kali, Pakhi Bala and Firidi -- where 17,245 children were to be vaccinated – could not be accessed by polio teams till very late owing to security concerns. Furthermore, inadequate training of polio teams delayed the campaign at Ghundai I and II of Tehsil Jamrud where 4,669 children are waiting to be vaccinated.
In Diamer, the anti-polio drive targeting 3,424 kids was delayed due to an unsatisfactory law and order situation.
In Peshawar and Charsadda the campaign commenced from April 18 instead of April 15 as teams were underprepared. In Lakki Marwat, the campaign never started because dates were not decided.
In Gadap town, the campaign will start on April 23 as arrangements are yet to be made. In Orangi and SITE towns the drive was planned from April 18 once adequate security arrangements were ensured.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th, 2013.
Correction: An earlier version of the story misstated the number of children as 1.3 million instead of 1.4. The error has been rectified.
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