On the one hand, the movement of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from North Waziristan Agency provides officials an opportunity to vaccinate children who were inaccessible to health workers since June 2012, on the other hand, there are concerns that the virus could spread with the movement of these children.
These fears are exacerbated by the fact that the movement is taking place during the summer season, a high transmission season for the poliovirus.
Speaking with The Express Tribune, Acting Country Head of World Health (WHO) in Pakistan Dr Nima Saeed Abid said all efforts are being made to vaccinate children from Waziristan at checkpoints set up for IDPs.
“These unvaccinated children cause a big threat to all those children living in the areas where the coverage of routine immunization is low,” Dr Abid said. Additionally, these children are also not vaccinated against preventable diseases such as measles.
“The areas which are at risk are Bannu, Tank, DI Khan, Lakki Marwat and southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” Dr Abid added.
So far a total of 221,253 children have been vaccinated against polio at check posts set up, according to the Prime Minister’s Polio Monitoring and Coordination Cell. Of these, 149,494 have been vaccinated in FR Bannu, 9,180 have been vaccinated in Bannu, 8,430 in Tank, 5,081 in Lakki Marwat, 6,247 in DI Khan, 17,838 in Hangu, 9,847 in Kohat, 179 in Karak and 14,957 in Peshawar.
A medical battalion has been moved to establish a field medical hospital in Bannu to provide healthcare services to the IDPs. Four relief delivery points have also been established at Bannu, Tank and DI Khan.
Fawad Khan, WHO’s focal person on IDPs said that the displaced, who are financially stable and are being registered at the camps. He added that their children were being vaccinated against polio.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 26th, 2014.