I am a regular volunteer for the polio campaign since 2011 in Multan district. My experience in the campaign have lead me to be more aware of severity of polio virus in Pakistan thus, I wanted to bring to your attention a recent major development in global public health. In September, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Nigeria as polio-free country. Nigeria was the last country in Africa with endemic poliovirus, whereas in Asia there are only two countries – Pakistan and Afghanistan – where polio has never been eradicated. Polio vaccination campaigns in Pakistan have been overwhelmed by continuous setbacks. Pakistan becomes the major supplier of confirmed polio cases over the couples of year.
Some of the reasons why we have not yet succeeded in eradicating polio in Pakistan include lack of awareness among the masses, poor health infrastructure, government negligence and most importantly the rising militancy. In FATA, militancy has aggravated the problem further by putting many children at risk and not allowing the vaccinators access to those regions. Overwhelmingly 96 per cent of polio cases so far reported are among these zones. According to Official epidemiological data over 40 per cent of children in Khyber Agency and almost 46 per cent in FR Kohat have not received any vaccinations during the anti-polio campaigns. According to the report of 2013 as many as 51 polio cases had been detected in FATA and 19 in Khyber Agency.
Besides violence there are other factors which come in the way of polio eradication. The polio cases identified in Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces in 2013 are the case in point. In these areas, the vaccinators are administered by the untrained staff. As the world stands on the verge of victory over polio, there is a need to address the loopholes in our system and the state and community should join hands to eradicate this menace once for all.
Islamabad, November 22.