Data collected from recent immunisation campaigns against polio reveal to us that a staggering 400,000 Pakistan children missed anti-polio drops. Hailing from parts of FATA, Gilgit-Baltistan, Islamabad, Gaddap, Faisalabad, Peshawar, Karachi, Hyderabad and beyond, 60,000 children who missed free of charge polio drops were from families that refused to have them immunised. In addition to the thousands of refusal cases, there were children who were not present during the time campaigns administered polio drops in their areas. These dilemmas crush any and all progress made in anti-polio programs.

Furthermore, polio remains endemic in the country due to the fatal threats anti-polio campaign workers face from anti-state militants, especially located in Northern Pakistan. Incidents of gunmen targeting doctors and workers is, unfortunately, expected. In 2011, the National Emergency Action Plan for polio eradication failed primarily due to the lawlessness in turbulent areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and the FATA. The lack of credible monitoring in polio campaigns, as well as irresponsible oversight and volatile security environment in various parts of the country, merge and create a debilitating hindrance in the path of protecting children from an easily preventable disease.

Fear-mongering by extremists and pre-existing as well as incumbent governments’ lack of political will to address the problem seriously, makes matters even more odious. The only course that will expunge the national polio emergency is dedicated governance, increased security for the implementation of campaigns in problematic parts of Pakistan, and consistent transmission of media awareness on polio for citizens. Only a few years ago, Pakistan was declared to be the only country that is a reservoir of polio-viru, and that still has not changed. The country cannot afford more disease and loss caused by a disease that requires as little as simple vaccination and drops.