WHO and partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative are committed to fully support the Governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan to tackle polio in its last strongholds and get rid of this debilitating disease for good.
Polio eradication requires high immunization amongst population
Polio eradication requires high immunization coverage everywhere, worldwide, to block transmission of this extremely contagious virus. Unfortunately, children are still missing out on vaccination for various reasons including lack of infrastructure, remote locations, population movement, conflict and insecurity and resistance to vaccination.
“Pakistan which currently stands at the top in the last three polio-endemic countries in the world for housing big wild poliovirus (WPV) reservoirs, will be the last place on earth in which polio exists,” is a piece of disturbing information shared at a meeting of the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) held in the first week of this month in the World Health Organisation’s headquarters at Geneva.
SAGE is the principal advisory group to the WHO for vaccines and immunisation.
A senior government official told Dawn that a brief of the meeting, released this week, depicted the level of concern of the world about the persistent emergence of the wild poliovirus in Pakistan.
Eradication is an ‘all or nothing’ effort
Giving comparison of the cases with the last years, the report said, one polio case was reported in Pakistan by the end of April in 2011, two in 2012 and 12 cases in 2013 but the cases reported in the same months in the current year were hundred times more.
Rawalpindi has been forecast second ‘Peshawar’ for housing a large number of migrant families who come from Fata, Bajaur Agency, North and South Waziristan, Mohmand Agency and Afghanistan.
Read more: Who killed two polio workers in Swabi?
Peshawar had again been declared a major reservoir for poliovirus transmission.
According to the WHO the densely-populated Peshawar valley is considered to be the main ‘engine’ of poliovirus transmission, alongside North Waziristan, due to large-scale population movements through Peshawar from across this region, and into other areas of Pakistan.
The officials were shocked to learn that out of the total 50 children who were paralysed by the wild poliovirus in Pakistan so far, 44 were reported with zero-dose.
Number of unvaccinated children have shot up
Forty-one of the cases were reported from Fata, eight from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and three from Sindh. Balochistan and Punjab reported no polio case.
In the report, Unicef and the WHO noted that the number of unvaccinated children in Pakistan had shot up to an unexpectedly high level. The calculations showed that KP reported 700 refusal cases, Punjab 404, including 250 in Rawalpindi, Sindh 386, Fata 269 and Balochistan reported 251 refusal cases during the last round of polio vaccination.