Pakistan is one of the three remaining countries in the world where polio is still categorised as an Endemic Viral Infection, one of the others being Afghanistan. As of October 2015, there have been 38 documented cases of wild Polio Virus in Pakistan.

Back in May 2014, when the World Health Organisation had implemented travel restrictions on Pakistan recommended by the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB), it was because 79 pc polio cases were reported from Pakistan. Now, more than 219 cases have been reported worldwide of which 184 are from Pakistan, which makes it 84 pc of the total cases reported.

Strains of the virus originating from Pakistan have been found in China, Syria, Egypt, Israel and Palestine. Hence, the WHO declared it a public health emergency and responded by putting travel restrictions on Pakistan for six months to stop the import/export of Polio Virus. The reason behind the travel restriction was to contain and eradicate polio from Pakistan. In January 2017, Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah admitted that eradicating the polio virus was a major challenge for his government.

Some months back the situation was alarming but now it is lethal. It is an emergency situation for Pakistan. Though the Polio Immunisation campaign in the country started in 1974, the efforts for eradication actually started in 1994. Yet the problem still persists.

The question is why repeated polio campaigns have resulted in poor routine immunisation drives. Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan are Polio-Endemic countries. Both Nigeria and Afghanistan have done much better than Pakistan in the last few years. Pakistan must make greater efforts to achieve the goal of becoming a Polio-Free Nation in 2017 and celebrate the end of the Era of the Polio Virus with the world.

KANWAL NAZ,

Karachi, May 12.