Two more cases in Karachi, one in FATA and one in KPK, bring the total number of polio cases in 2014 to 166. FATA alone has accounted for 119 of the cases found this year, and the explanation of this is fairly simple; it has been over two years since the last vaccination campaign in the area. However, the most troubling issue is that out of 47 cases outside of FATA, 31 were caused by the parents’ refusal to administer the vaccine. Let’s be clear: Taliban propaganda is not the only cause for hostility against the vaccine, and the government is equally responsible for remaining silent and only relying on health workers and NGOs to refute this narrative. The government has also miserably failed to provide adequate security to health workers where necessary, and has further alienated them by delaying payments for their work. With the polio count of this year almost double than previous years, it is a wonder that more health workers have not backed out of a responsibility that is a threat to their life, with their work seemingly of no importance to the state.

For the 166 children diagnosed this year, there is no hope. Those and all others before them that have been infected due to the indifference of the government, refusal by parents and countless other reasons, will be paralysed for life. They are not the last either. This year might just see Pakistan exceed over 200 polio cases. But that is all the more reason for the government to clean up its act and conduct effective vaccination campaigns in areas such as FATA which are major hotspots for the virus, and ensure that every province makes this their priority. A simultaneous awareness campaign must also be launched, using every medium available, from print, radio and television campaigns, alongside local politicians ensuring that their electorate is on board to collectively spread the right information about both polio and the vaccine. We have already failed all targets, and gone back to square one. It might be too late for hundreds of children, but for millions more, a shot at health still exists if we learn from our mistakes and mismanagement in a constructive way.