Far from showing signs of letting up, polio cases in the tribal belt are emerging with increasing frequency.
The National Institute of Health (NIH) in Islamabad on Friday confirmed the preventable disease in 12-month-old Ayesha, a resident of Nala Kajori in Bara, Khyber Agency. Having not received even a single dose of the vaccine, the onset of paralysis occurred on June 23 as recalled by her parents.
The total number of polio cases in the country has now reached 20, out of which 17 have emerged due to the ‘ban’ on vaccinations imposed by the Taliban or because parents refuse to allow the drops to be administered to their children.
“This is the eighth polio case reported from Khyber Agency in the last six weeks. The area in which the family of the child is residing has been inaccessible to polio vaccination teams since September 2009,” read a report issued by the health institute.
“If you do not contain the virus, and fail to vaccinate susceptible children an outbreak will occur,” read the report. “We were successfully reaching children before the Taliban banned vaccinations in North Waziristan Agency. Refusals to the drops have gained momentum due to the dented credibility of the polio campaign after the Dr Shakil Afridi incident.”
The report added the failure of the communication and public awareness campaign to restore public trust in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) was a major challenge to overcome, with several parents refusing the polio drops.
“Polio eradication is not rocket science, if children are vaccinated the virus will be contained. If not, the virus will spread,” the report concluded.
The total number of cases in Fata has reached 12 while four cases have been reported from K-P. Two cases each have been reported in Sindh and Punjab. In 2012, Khyber Agency reported a total of 11 polio cases, 8 of which were from Bara sub-division.
Meanwhile, the last polio case was reported on Wednesday in North Waziristan with 11-month-old Shabana from Koli Khel in Khushali, Mir Ali reported to be infected with the crippling virus.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2013.