Another polio case surfaces in North Waziristan

PESHAWAR: Another polio case has surfaced in North Waziristan tribal district after which the tally in Pakistan this year has mounted to 16.

According to the Health Department, the samples of a three and a half-year-old girl from Derkai village of Mir Ali tehsil in North Waziristan were sent to the National Institute of Health (NIH) Islamabad on April 26, where poliovirus was confirmed in the child. The girl was initially brought to the dispensary of her village after she was suffering from high grade fever. The dispensary took the samples from the child and sent to laboratory.

The little girl was administered seven dozes of anti-polio vaccine and she was also given one OPV doze, but still she contracted polio. It is the 16th polio case reported in Pakistan this year. Eleven of these cases were reported from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including three from North Waziristan. Three cases have been reported from Punjab and two from Sindh.

Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Eradication Babar Bin Atta has confirmed emergence of a fresh polio case in North Waziristan.

Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are the only three countries in the world where polio is categorised is endemic viral infection. Vaccination efforts in these countries are often hampered due to refusal of parents or threats from militants. The National Emergency Operation Centre has already issued warning of presence of poliovirus in eight cities including Peshawar, Lahore, Bannu, Rawalpindi, Qila Abdullah, Pishin, Quetta and Karachi.

Another major problem particular in the tribal districts is the polio vaccination boycott by tribesmen and even by members from security forces like Levies and Khassadars in the recent past on several occasions to pressurise the government to accept their demands. Several children in tribal districts miss polio vaccination in the event of such protests and strikes.

The government has taken several measures including arrest of parents, blocking of computerised national identity cards (CNICs) and suspension of privileges of people who refuse to cooperate with the vaccination teams. Several polio officials not performing their duties have also been sacked recently. Despite all these measures taken by the government, polio cases are still surfacing, which means much more needs to be done to realise the dream of polio-free Pakistan.