Polio cases take Pakistan by storm, urging immediate action

As polio cases are on the rise, authorities are yet to develop an inclusive and comprehensive mechanism to counter it. Is there any way forward to counter the crippling disease?

Pakistan

The Sindh Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) for Polio confirmed on Friday two new polio cases in the province that took the tally to 27. Pakistan is facing the rise in polio cases which demands immediate policy measures to be taken in order to ensure it is countered in due time.

A 8 year old boy from Kambar tested positive for the polio virus, according to a statement issued by the EOC. The child had no routine immunisation but parents claimed he had had seven doses of the polio vaccine.

The EOC said the child had already died (not from polio) and the polio case was established through contact sample.

The second polio case was reported in Dadu. A 24-month-old boy in UC Drigh Bala tested positive for the virus after weakness in facial muscles. According to his parents, the child had been administered more than seven doses of the polio vaccine, as well.

Read more: The rise of polio cases in Pakistan: What is the way forward?

The EOC said investigations regarding vaccination status of both the children was under way. Apart from the above two cases, a 42-month-old boy also tested positive for the virus in Sujawal, the EOC stated further.

Cases in Sindh and KP

Recently, three cases were recorded in Sindh and two in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The first case was a 3-year-old female from Sakran in Shaheed Benazirabad, Sindh. She had received three doses of routine immunization and seven doses of supplementary immunization.

The second case was a 12 year old male from Karachi’s Keamari Town. He had received three doses of routine immunization and seven doses of supplementary immunization. The third case was a three-month-old female from Lakki Marwat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. She had received no polio drops.

Read more: The rise of Polio cases in Sindh: Tall claims by government rendered moot

The fourth case was a 30-month-old female from Kotri in Jamshoro, Sindh. It is not clear whether she received any dose of the polio vaccine. Finally, the fifth case was a 10-month-male from Wazir in Bannu, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. His immunization record was incomplete.

According to an EOC for Polio: “Lakki Marwat and Bannu have become high-risk districts for polio cases in 2019, as 15 and 24 polio cases were reported in both the districts, respectively. Polio cases from Lower and Upper Kohistan have been reported for the first time this year.”

This week, the Gates Foundation pledged $1.08 billion and, along with other development partner organizations and governments, the meeting got total pledges worth $2.6bn, including $160 million announced by Dr. Mirza on behalf of Pakistan to eradicate polio in the world.

Polio Cases in Pakistan

With the latest addition, the number of polio cases climbed to 53 this year, far more than the 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.

Read more: Rise of Polio cases: PM Khan to lead an anti-polio campaign himself

An official from 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.

Countering Polio

Recently, Prime Minister Khan said that polio eradication was the government’s top priority as it affected the future generation. He stressed upon the need for a robust Ehsaas Polio Partnership for implementation of the two vital programs.

The army representative assured full support to polio teams in their efforts to reach out to the children in far-flung areas of the country.

Last month, the Taliban issued a written warning to polio workers to stop their duties otherwise they will be responsible for any damage inflicted on them. This has been creating challenges for the provincial government to address the critical situation.

Read more: Authorities in KPK and Sindh are determined to make Pakistan polio-free

Representatives of international partners and donors also assured their continued cooperation to the government for 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 the efforts being made to eliminate the crippling disease.

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