PESHAWAR: As the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) struggles to continue anti-polio campaigns against all odds, a third child from North Waziristan Agency (NWA) has been diagnosed with the crippling disease.
The National Institute of Health (NIH) in Islamabad on Monday confirmed nine-month-old Said Akbar, from Kotla village, Datta Khel in NWA is infected with the virus. The ill-fated child has not received a single dose of the polio vaccine as the area has been out of reach. Vaccination teams have not been able to access the region since June 2012 after a ‘ban’ against polio immunisation was imposed by Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur.
“This is a type-1 polio case – the most dangerous type of polio. With such a large number of unvaccinated children in South and North Waziristan agencies, there is a serious threat of an explosive outbreak in the region, including southern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and south-eastern Afghanistan (Paktia, Paktika),” the NIH report warns. The type-1 virus is associated with the highest rates of paralysis.
So far, 10 of the 18 cases of polio reported in 2013 emerged in Fata. Altogether, K-P and Fata have had 14 children infected with the virus – 78% of the total number of cases in the country.
The FATA Secretariat aims to vaccinate 700,000 children below the age of five years across the tribal belt. North and South Waziristan could not be part of any campaigns so far, as the ‘ban’ against polio vaccinations still persists.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 2nd, 2013.