The number of polio cases in the country is inching closer to the staggering three-figure (100) mark after five more children were diagnosed with the paralysing virus on Saturday.
Five more cases were confirmed from different parts of the country, bringing the total number of polio cases to 99, surpassing last year’s count of 93.
The National Institute of Health (NIH), Islamabad, said the children were from North Waziristan Agency, South Waziristan Agency, Lakki Marwat and Karachi.
Two-year-old Jaul Haq, son of Noor Dad Khan, who hails from Mada Khel, Miramshah tehsil, North Waziristan was diagnosed with polio.
The second case confirmed was of Khaliq Nawaz’s 18-month-old daughter Maryam. She is a resident of Data Khel, Miramshah, North Waziristan Agency.
The third child is 18-month-old Faiz, son of Abdul Ghafoor, from Dabkot area in Wana tehsil, South Waziristan Agency.
Another two-year-old Maira, daughter of Naimatullah, was confirmed with having poliovirus. He hails from Suleman Khel, Shagai village, Lakki Marwat.
The latest case from Karachi, who was the fifth child to be diagnosed with polio, was a 21-month-old boy named Hamza, son of Zabiullah. He lives in Sultanabad, Manghopir, Gadap town and is a Mehsud, informed NIH’s executive district health officer Dr Zafa Ejaz.
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) official Kalimullah Khan said the newly diagnosed children from North and South Waziristan have received no oral polio vaccine (OPV) doses and the child from Lakki Marwat was a refusal case.
He said that four polio vaccination campaigns have been designed by the KP government for southern districts this month.
He pointed out that three campaigns have been completed so far while the fourth will be conducted on Monday and Tuesday. Khan said that during three campaigns, they have immunised over half a million children of IDPs and host families. He said that their target is 0.6 million and in the last round they expect to achieve this target.
A silver lining
Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) National Manger Dr Rana Mohammad Safdar provides a glimmer of hope.
He believes that quality campaigns and accessibility to every child will help stop poliovirus transmission in 2015 and achieve the status of a polio-free Pakistan by 2018.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, he explained, “But the movement of IDPs from North Waziristan due to the ongoing military operation provides us an opportunity to vaccinate those 300,000 children who have remained inaccessible since 2012. If we can immunise these children, we can control the ever-increasing number of polio cases.”
There has been a decline in the number of polio-infected districts from 24 in 2013 to 14 this year, he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2014.