ISLAMABAD: Despite the fact that polio cases reported this year have surpassed last year’s count of 93, government officials are confident that the crippling disease can be eradicated from the country by 2018 through improved immunisation drives and accessibility to every child.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) National Manger Dr Rana Mohammad Safdar said quality campaigns and accessibility to every child will help stop polio virus transmission in 2015 and achieve the status of a polio-free Pakistan by 2018.
This year, 94 polio cases have been reported from the country which is not a good sign, he said. “But the movement of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from North Waziristan Agency (NWA) due to the ongoing military operation provides us an opportunity to vaccinate those 300,000 children who have remained inaccessible since 2012.” There has been a decline in the number of polio-infected districts from 24 in 2013 to 14 this year, he added.
“The majority of polio cases have been reported from this region. If we are able to vaccinate these 300,000 children, we can control the ever-increasing number of polio cases in the country.” So far, three rounds of polio supplementary immunisation activities (SIAs) have been carried out in Bannu district where IDPs are living in camps and two more are planned, he added. “They will be vaccinated twice or thrice, first at the transit points and then at the registration centres and third through SIAs.”
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), 399,019 IDPs moving out from NWA have been vaccinated against polio at permanent transit posts in south Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Out of these, 267,707 were vaccinated at key posts in Frontier Region Bannu, Hangu and Kurram.
“Our priority is not only to vaccinate all the children of IDPs against polio at the posts but also adults as they can also be carriers of the virus,” said Safdar. “After vaccinating the children from inaccessible areas, the next focus will be Peshawar and Karachi.”
An official in the K-P health department who wished not to be named said this year so far seven cases of polio had been reported from Peshawar alone, while they were five last year.
“This clearly shows that the Sehat ka Insaf drive has not been a success and exposes the tall claims of the K-P government about combating polio,” said the official. “Moreover, the majority of polio vaccinators in K-P have not been paid their salaries for the past 10 anti-polio drives due to which they are demotivated.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2014.