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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

How can Pakistan deal with rising polio cases?

Polio cases have reached to 29 in Pakistan. There are limited options for the government to rely on. The important question is what should the government do to deal with cultural challenges?

Two more polio cases have been detected in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Thursday, raising the total tally of cases across the country to 29. As per details, the cases of the crippling disease were reported from Lakki Marwat and South Waziristan area. A 14-month-old minor has been affected by the crippling disease in Lakki Marwat while another polio case has been diagnosed in a 13-month-old boy from South Waziristan.

On Wednesday, a new case of poliovirus was detected in a 2-year-old girl in Balochistan’s region of Zhob. The child, who was diagnosed with the poliovirus had not been exposed to polio vaccination. Five cases of positive polio cases have been reported in the province in the ongoing year.

PM Khan is concerned about the situation

Prime Minister Imran Khan said that Pakistan’s biggest priority is to eradicate polio from the country. The prime minister met a delegation of the organization working towards polio eradication, where he was accompanied by Special Assistant to PM on Health Dr Zafar Mirza.

The SAPM briefed the session about measures taken to root out polio from the country, saying that four million children under the age of five were administered polio drops.

Read more: Polio’s shocking return to Malaysia after 27 years

Dr Mirza said that in the ongoing drive, more than 100,000 security personnel and 250,000 polio workers performed their duties.

The prime minister said that the government will put to use all the possible resources to get rid of the disease, adding that measures to streamline cross-border (Pakistan and Afghanistan) movement are being taken. He also said that the government values every organization working to eradicate polio from the country.

Rotary International’s team met COAS

A day earlier, the army chief met with Rotary International’s four-member team. Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Bajwa praised the efforts of Rotary International in Pakistan’s fight against polio, according to the Inter-Services Public Relations.

In the meeting, measures related to healthcare in Pakistan and the country’s battle against poliovirus were discussed.

The army chief praised the contributions of the RI in the eradication of polio in Pakistan. He also expressed hope that the efforts will lead to completely rooting out the disease from the country.

Rise of polio cases in Pakistan

It is important to note here that in a worrying development, the authorities have confirmed five more cases in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. A few months ago there was a rise of the cases in the province due to parents’ refusal to get their children vaccinated. Provincial government along with the center is working on the matter but there are slim chances of overpowering the situation any time soon due to prevailing socio-cultural opposition.

Recently, the Taliban have issued written warnings to polio workers to stop their duties otherwise they will be responsible for any damage that happens to them. It has been creating challenges for the provincial government to address the critical situation.

Read more: Polio cases take Pakistan by storm, urging immediate action

Representatives of international partners and donors also assured their continued cooperation to the government in the polio eradication mission.

Deputy Director of Polio Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Dr. Tim Peterson presented a letter of appreciation from Bill Gates to Prime Minister Khan for efforts being made to eliminate the crippling disease.

Polio Cases in Pakistan

With the latest addition, the number of cases climbed to 53 this year, far more than last year’s figure of 12. In sharp contrast, only eight cases were confirmed in 2017. The five new victims, including two girls, belonged to Bannu, North Waziristan and Charsadda, with the youngest of them only 22 months old.

An official of Polio Virology Laboratory at the National Institute of Health (NIH), requesting anonymity, said three cases were reported from Bannu and one each from North Waziristan and Charsadda. “During investigations, it emerged that not a single child was vaccinated during polio and routine immunization campaigns, as their parents apparently did not allow the children to be vaccinated,” he said.

Polio Wiped out Across the World

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), polio has been but wiped out across the world following a sustained vaccination campaign, with only 22 cases reported in 2017 against more than 350,000 in 1988. There is no known cure but the disease can be prevented if children are given multiple treatments with the vaccine, the WHO states.

Read more: Philippines in panic as Polio re-emerges after 19 years

While it has virtually been eliminated, polio remains a threat to global health because as long as a single child remains infected, the virus can easily be spread into polio-free countries and unimmunized populations, according to the health body.