KARACHI - Issuance of polio certificates to travellers has become a lucrative business for private hospitals in country’s commercial hub though Sindh Health Department has announced public hospitals will do the same free of cost.

Declaring the spread of polio an international public health emergency in the first week of May, the World Health Organization recommended Pakistan, Syria and Cameroon require citizens to obtain a certificate proving they have been vaccinated for polio before traveling abroad. Sindh follows KP and tribal belt where the polio virus has been on the prowl.

Kicking off 12-day anti-polio and anti-measles campaigns, Sindh Health Minister Dr Saghir Ahmed announced that the government was trying to make easy the process of obtaining the certificate. “Such certificates can easily be obtained from any government hospital free of cost,” the minister said. However, some leading private hospitals such as Aga Khan University Hospital and Ziauddin University Hospital, have been issuing polio certificates to travelers. Prior to the WHO restriction, the Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) has been charging from Rs1,300 to Rs1,500 for this service. Dressing down the authorities for their failure in making Pakistan polio free, the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) feared the moneymaking would make its way in the corruption-plagued departments of the country.

“Travel bars are shameful for the the 7th nuclear power,” PMA Secretary General Dr Mirza Ali Azhar added.

“Billions of rupees have been spoiled in the name of splashed account of Expended Programme of Immunization (EPI) but the government has completely failed to make Pakistan a polio free country,” he said. In the name of such health certificates, private hospitals of the other cities of the country have been making money.