Friday, October 1, 2010


Resurgence of polio

The challenges facing Pakistan’s anti-polio campaign are many – difficulties in outreach, war, refusal of the vaccine, and now the floods – and in that context the emergence of 59 cases of the disease should be seen as a setback for the country’s efforts to rid itself of this debilitating disease. In 2005, 28 cases were reported and since then the numbers have hovered in the double-digit range. As expected, the disease has resurfaced in the country’s northwest, in Fata and parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to be precise, with dozens of children reported to be suffering from it. Though polio drives have recently been launched in different provinces in the past week, many children have been missed. An estimated 100,000 children were missed in Bara because of the military operation while the health department said that 23,000 children from Upper Swat would not be inoculated because the floods had weakened communication systems and road links. In addition to this, these regions have suffered because of the influence of extremists who have fought concerted campaigns against the polio vaccination programme.
For instance, the people, especially children, of Swat suffered immensely because for two or so years when the district was under the virtual control of the Taliban, their leader Mullah Fazlullah’s carried out a rabid – and effective – smear campaign against the vaccination drive warning all his followers that it was an American/Zionist plan to make the local people sterile. One positive outcome of the floods, however, is that children in the relief camps, who are not traditionally covered by health workers because of limited outreach, have been inoculated. The people in the region have been hit hard by the floods and by militancy are already prone to disease, especially those who were displaced recently by the floods. Road links must be rebuilt as soon as possible so that life-saving schemes such as these can go ahead.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 30th, 2010

1 comment:

  1. This issue is very urgent . The vaccination against childhood diseases has to be first priority. The sad part is that the population mix due to internal migration takes away the advantage a vaccinated community has in health coverage. The large weekly migration between Pathan populations in Shireen Jinnah colony, Karachi makes the hepatitis, polio, infested population mix with that which is residing here in this locality. There is no way to check or monitor this mixing.