ISLAMABAD  - The three-day anti-polio drive completed across 30 districts of Balochistan despite the attack in Quetta outside a co-ordination centre for the campaign, officials said yesterday.

After the suicide blast, the campaign was suspended for two hours but after reviewing the situation the officials decided to resume it.

Polio eradication campaigns have been badly hindered since 2012 by attacks targeting vaccination teams. In the three years after the first incident, 11 health officials were killed in Balochistan in different attacks. In total, 53 attacks took place since December 2012 resulting in about 80 casualties and 60 injuries.

Tight security ensured there was only one attack, in Manshera, last year. Officials said the security forces and health professionals were determined to finish the job. “Although such attacks upset everyone and lower the morale but we are here to support the teams. They are being provided all the required security,” said Saifur Rehman, Provincial Coordinator of the Emergency Operations Cell, Balochistan. The campaign will continue in 30 districts as per the plan. Dr Rana Safdar, National Coordinator of Emergency Operation Centre, said the matter had been reviewed and a decision to continue the drive had been made. The missed children due to suspension of the campaign will be administered the drops in the two extended days, he said.

The vaccination campaigns will continue for five days and children who are missed during the three-day campaign due to any reasons are caught up during the next two catch-up days. The children who were missed in other parts of the country due to rain would also be vaccinated during the catch-up days.

The suicide blast in Quetta's Satellite Town had killed 14 people, including 12 policemen and one FC worker while 20 injured shifted to the hospital yesterday at noon. The incident occurred on the third of a three-day nationwide vaccination drive. Teams had convened at social security center near the site of the blast where they were briefed for their day-plan and left for their designated areas to administer polio vaccine drops.

About 230,000 health workers in over 100,000 teams take part in frequently held vaccination campaigns as Pakistan enters in critical phase of fight against polio. In this campaign, the teams were given the target to reach out to 36.5 million children to administer 41 million doses.

Pakistan along with Afghanistan is the only polio endemic country in the world with 52 cases in 2015. To interrupt virus transmission through 5 high quality campaigns during January - May 2016, the National Emergency Action Plan (NEAP) has set the target to end poliovirus circulation by May 2016.

“Polio eradication faces serious challenges in Pakistan,” said an official of World Health Organisation, who is involved in supporting the eradication efforts carried out by the government. “But the government is continuing with the polio campaign in Quetta that indicates utmost resolve of the government of Pakistan to eradicate polio,” the WHO official said. 

Quetta, Killa Abdullah and Pashin are amongst the troubled areas where poliovirus circulation still continues. But considering the resolve of the relevant officials and past record of the turnaround in campaign coverage results from 20 to over 70 percent, official are hopeful that the province would be the first one to interrupt the virus circulation.