IT’S been an abysmal couple of weeks for polio eradication in the Country. While Nigeria one of the three countries where polio has not been eradicated — seems to be on its way to being declared free from the ‘wild’ strain of the virus, Pakistan has been seeing a worrying increase in the number of cases at home.
Two new case of crippling poliovirus was detected in a eight-month-old was diagnosed with the poliovirus in the Jafarabad and a nine-month-old was diagnosed in the Qila Abdullah. Which has brought the total number of polio cases to two in Balochistan, an alarming situation which brought us back to 2014 during which this month the cases were also five. Later the number of cases reached to 25 at the end of 2014.
It is expected that more cases will emerge from Balochistan and other parts of the country where total cases are now 41.
According to sources, the parents of three children had refused to get them vaccinated during anti-polio drives and had made excuses to be exempted.
So far this year, three cases of polio have emerged from Punjab, two from Balochistan, 33 from K-P, including eight cases from erstwhile Fata.
It will not be wrong to say that parents was the sole responsible for her lifelong paralyzing disease which could have been prevented by administering anti-polio drops available at his door step. The new case has also underscored the grave issue of refusals on religious grounds or other reasons. It was the third case out of total five which took place due to the refusal of parents.
According to Emergency Operation Center (EOC) Balochistan, there were 44 percent refusal cases out of total 25 poliovirus cases reported in 2014 in Balochistan while this year two cases reported are refusals.
In Balochistan most of the cases have taken place in Quetta or northern areas, predominantly ethnic Pashtun areas. The history and cases can easily tell that a huge responsibility lie on the shoulder of Pashtun leaders and religious clerics to play their due role in eradicating the poliovirus.
Balochistan is the most backward in terms of provision of healthcare, education and basic infrastructure. However, the people often demand for provision of these facilities. In Majority of the province, people travel to get the best healthcare facilities. In case of polio, it is the same in major parts of the province but the trouble lies in few districts which include Quetta, Killa Abdullah, Pishin, Zhob, Loralai, Killa Saifullah or adjoining areas.
The Large scale disinformation campaigns and the misuse of modern-day technology to perpetuate myths have caused immeasurable damage to years of efforts put into eradicating the virus, which has resulted in many front-line workers and security officials losing their lives.
The authorities must remain vigilant of those who espouse anti-polio propaganda — be it through mosques or the media. And security should be beefed up for polio teams and their protectors instead of suspending the polio campaign, as the authorities have done.
The optimism that could be seen not too long ago, when it truly seemed that Pakistan was inching closer to complete eradication of polio, seems to be disappearing, as officials now look for ways to tackle these unexpected new challenges they are faced with.
It’s in Pakistan own interest to eliminate polio. There is no political implication or conspiracy involved in this. Of the 1.4 million left unprotected, we have on our hands a great responsibility.
It’s not the duty of the government and health organisations alone to rid the country of polio. All of us must play their role for the sake of our children and we need honest and dedicated people to win this war.