ISLAMABAD - President Asif Ali Zardari chairing a special meeting to look into the polio situation in FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at the Aiwan-i-Sadr Friday expressed serious concern that over 200,000 children have not been reached out in FATA because of insecurity and inaccessibility.

Governor Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa Barrister Masood Kausar, Special Assistant to Prime Minister Shahnaz Wazir Ali, Aseefa Bhutto Zardari, Polio Ambassador and high-ranking officials from FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa attended the meeting. The President was informed that 13 out of 29 cases of polio this year were reported from FATA. Of the 13 cases, 10 alone were from parts of Khyber Agency that are experiencing law and order situation and thus inaccessible for the Polio teams. Bara in Khyber Agency of FATA today was a major reservoir of Polio in the world, the President was told. The tehsil has recently reported the most dangerous P 3 type of Poliovirus that hitherto was only found in Northern Nigeria.

The President maintained that it is clear that any opposition to polio vaccination by some elements is political only and there is no religious dimension to it. “Our great religion Islam calls upon the faithful to protect the vulnerable and save humanity from disability and suffering”. Examples of Saudi Arabia and almost the entire ummah having eradicated the disease with the same polio campaigns were cited by the President.

The meeting also took stock of the ban imposed on Polio campaigns in parts of FATA by some elements and expressed serious concern over the situation which threatens to reverse gains made in the polio drive so far. To this the FATA administration informed the President that every effort was being made to ensure that the campaigns are resumed in these areas and every possible means are being employed including involving the tribal elders.

The President directed to control the spillover of the virus from FATA to Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa by vaccinating every child on the move. For this he directed round the year vaccination on motorways and highways and all exit and entry routes of FATA.

On a query by the President as to how have countries in Africa with active conflict been able to eradicate Polio, Dr. Hamid Jafri from the World Health Organization explained that all warring factions in such areas realized that children should not be a casualty in the crossfire and they agreed on ‘days of tranquility’ for the Polio immunization activities.

He also cited the example of Afghanistan where warring factions announced ceasefire just for the polio campaigns.

Earlier, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister and Focal Person on Polio, Shahnaz Wazir Ali gave a detailed briefing on the polio situation in the country. The continued transmission of poliovirus in Pakistan and the rising numbers of polio cases since 2008 turned the initiative into a national emergency, she said. With four rounds of Polio Campaign being held so far in 2012, Pakistan has reported 29 cases of polio during the current year with the highest number of cases in FATA (13) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (8), meanwhile Punjab has reported 2 cases, Baluchistan 3 and Sindh 3 cases. The country had reported 73 cases in the corresponding period last year.