Since the start of this year, over 14 cases of the polio virus have been reported in Pakistan. The government claimed that the cases, as well as positive sewage samples, were all restricted in the KP region but new environmental samples taken from seven cities across the country prove otherwise. Positive results indicated the presence of polio in major urban centers from where it is likely to spread like a wildfire. Considering this development, it seems as though our efforts to eliminate the debilitating disease and be declared polio-free may have been in vain.
16 months after having been declared polio-free, water sources in Islamabad and Lahore have been found to contain the virus. They are accompanied by Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Bannu, Nowshera and Swat. Most of these cities are the urban centers of Pakistan, housing millions of people and children who are now at immense risk. From reporting just a few cases every year, we have now reached double digits that are bound to increase with time. All it takes is one case, and one polluted water source. This inevitability is something that the country and the government must be scared of, especially considering that Covid-19 is still present and thriving simultaneously. Our national immunity is already low and with polio on the rise again, our health and the healthcare system will be in shambles should the worst of circumstances prevail.
It is imperative that the government takes this development with the seriousness that it requires. Vaccinations must prevail, along with awareness campaigns that aim to educate parents on the need to be proactive and careful in these uncertain times. District Health Management Teams have already been alerted but that is only the first step. Targeted, consistent and immediate action is the need of the hour.