Nearly 40 trucks carrying internally displaced persons (IDPs) from North Waziristan en route to Afghanistan were turned back by the Pakistan army at the Pak-Afghan border on Thursday.
Speaking with The Express Tribune, an official said the families had refused to have their children vaccinated against polio. “They have demanded that the government should first provide them with proper food and shelter before they have their children vaccinated,” the official said on the condition of anonymity. The trucks were diverted to a camp in Bannu.
The official said that it is now the provincial government’s responsibility to ensure that all IDPs entering the province are vaccinated against polio. Military officials told The Express Tribune that they hope Operation Zarb-e-Azb will enable access to children who have not received the vaccine since 2012. Vaccinations will be carried out at check posts and 20 registration centres – with ten each for men and women – have been set up, military sources said.
On the other hand, according to the Prime Minister’s Polio Cell, nearly 40,000 children have been vaccinated during the two-day Emirates Polio Campaign in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) under the UAE-Pakistan Assistance Programme (UPAP). “The target was 37,000 children and it is a positive sign that 3000 more children were also vaccinated,” said an official.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, EPI National Manger Dr Ejaz Khan said there are currently 61,000 IDPs in the Bannu camp, of which 2,930 are children. In Dera Ismail Khan, there are 740 children who have been vaccinated. Dr Khan said there are ample amounts of the polio vaccine and the federal EPI has additional stock. Two mobile medical teams have been deputed to vaccinate children against polio in the area. Dr Khan said the movement of IDPs from North Waziristan is a good sign as it is providing an opportunity to vaccinate all those children who have never been vaccinated.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 20th, 2014.