LAHORE  - Like other parts of the globe, Pakistan will observe World Polio Day today (Thursday) to reiterate resolve to continue fight against the crippling disease.

Health workers and policemen, who either lost their lives or got injured in 24 targeted attacks during polio campaigns since July 2012, will be paid rich tribute. Twenty-two health workers and policemen escorting polio teams have so far been killed while 14 injured in 24 attacks.

From January to October, 46 polio cases surfaced in the country while 50 cases were reported from 14 districts, towns and tribal agencies during the same time period of last year.

Official sources say this year, 89 per cent are from the Fata (34) and Khyber PK (7) – both areas are affected by militancy and military operations.

Some 260,000 children in the North and South Waziristan have not been vaccinated against polio since July 2012. These inaccessible children continue to be at particular risk of polio infection and circulation to other parts of the country.

However, health workers and doctors involved in polio campaigns claimed that the number of individual genetic strains of the wild poliovirus has dropped from more than 12 last year to just two this year. They said more children are being reached than ever before, particularly in the traditional reservoir areas. Of the 34 million children under five in Pakistan, less than half of one per cent - 0.5% - are not vaccinated due to refusals by their parents or caregivers.

This is an alarming reminder that the virus continues to circulate freely posing an increasing risk to children everywhere and in particular to children living in areas where security and access for health workers has been severely compromised for extended periods of time.

In the areas, where most children are repeatedly vaccinated by over 100,000 vaccination teams across Pakistan, the virus has been halted in its tracks. Without access and security, Pakistan will have to brace itself for an increased number of children needlessly crippled for life in the second half of the year.

This is when the virus is most virulent and can rapidly spread among thousands of unprotected children, some who have not been vaccinated in over one year.

Doctors and social workers working for polio eradication said communities must be engaged to share the goal of eradication and must recognize the value of vaccination as a health service they can access to protect their children from disease.

From Peshawar Report adds:

KPK Chief Minister Pervez Khattak said in his message that  his government would continue fight against polio.

He said, "Today is a very important day. World Polio Day is observed to raise awareness among the masses regarding the fight against the crippling disease of polio and to refresh the pledge to eradicate this menace from the world."

He said that on this day we show our national cohesion for the cause of polio eradication. "This day is both a reason to celebrate the recent progress as well as reminder that there is still a lot to be done to eliminate this crippling disease once and for all," he added.

The chief minister said this is also a day to pay tributes to our brave polio workers and policemen who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. These truly heroic men and women have laid down their lives for a lofty cause.

He added Pakistan unfortunately is among the last three remaining polio endemic countries. Side by side with the federal government, he said the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government is committed to the cause of polio eradication from the province. "There is luckily a strong engagement of political leadership for the cause of polio eradication at all levels. My government has provided all resources for the cause and we will never shirk to provide any assistance required in this direction in the future too. Polio eradication is on top of agenda of my government," he added.

He said that polio causes irreversible paralysis. "Vaccination is the only mechanism for preventing our children from getting lifelong disability. I appeal to all religious and political leaders, the media, social workers and particularly parents to come forward and support the government in its efforts to eradicate the menace of polio. We all need to join hands to save our children from this completely preventable disease. Being Muslims and Pakistanis it is our duty to add all we can do to uproot polio," he added.

He said stressed the need to double efforts to eradicate polio sooner. "We have all the necessary tools to eliminate this disease. We have the vaccine, the resolve and the strategy. We have the chance to write an entirely new polio free chapter in our history. Let a polio-free Pakistan be our legacy to the next generation of our children," he added.