Pakistan may be polio free by next year: UNICEF health official

Published: November 10, 2015
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A boy receives polio vaccine drops at a government children's hospital in Peshawar. PHOTO: REUTERS.

A boy receives polio vaccine drops at a government children's hospital in Peshawar. PHOTO: REUTERS.

PESHAWAR: With an 85% reduction in recorded polio cases in 2015, Pakistan may be declared a ‘non-endemic country for polio virus’ by next year, a Unicef health official said on Monday.

Pakistan, which along with Afghanistan remains the only place where the crippling disease is still rife, has registered only 36 polio cases so far this year, as compared to 306 cases recorded last year.

The year 2014 is considered by health experts as the darkest year for the Pakistan polio eradication programme.

Anti-polio drive: Nearly 450 teams to be deployed

Unicef Team Leader for Polio eradication in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) Dr Muhammad Johar said, “Efforts to eradicate the disease have been severely hindered in recent years by militants who attacked immunisation teams and polio workers were not allowed in certain areas for administering drops.”

“The progress and achievement in polio eradication efforts has raised the confidence of health teams and Pakistan has set the target of complete obstruction of polio transmission in the country by May 2016,” he said, while adding, “In May 2016, Pakistan may be declared a Non-Endemic country for polio virus.”

Disease eradication: Polio drive to begin on November 10

Aqeel Ahmad, the media liaison officer of the Polio Emergency Operation Center (EOC) Fata, said, “Around 292,000 children from Khyber Agency, North Waziristan and South Waziristan Agencies missed immunisation in 2014 due to inaccessibility to these area.”

He noted that in 2015, only 16,000 children were missed in the country which is highly commendable.

Both Ahmad and Dr Johar associated this achievement to the military’s efforts in improving security, especially after launching Operation Zarb-e-Azab.

Polio campaign: 400,000 children to be vaccinated

According to Dr Johar, “The main reason behind the rise in number of polio cases between 2005 to 2014 was inaccessibility to tribal areas where hundreds of thousands of children were missed from immunization, resulting in the contamination of disease.”

This article originally appeared on The Times of India.

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Reader Comments (2)

  • Nov 10, 2015 - 7:25PM

    Rotary International spearheaded international efforts for polio eradication. The cost to RI until now stood at $1.4 billions, mainly from pockets of 1.2 Rotarians around the world and contributions from individuals, governments, NGOs..etc. Pakistan (and Afghanistan) being the last bastion for polio in the world, it is important to increase efforts to wipe out this cross border debilitating disease as soon as 2017. India has been declared polio free 2012, and Pakistan can’t lag behind. We are THIS close. Recommend

  • curious2
    Nov 10, 2015 - 9:44PM

    Clear sign of progress – and it’s not coincidental that govt push against Taliban coincides with reduction of polio cases. Just more evidence that Taliban are harmful to your health and the health of your children. Recommend

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