AsianScientist (Aug. 1, 2012) – The Pakistani government has devised a new strategy for the campaign against polio by establishing vaccination kiosks at all security checkpoints in tribal and far-off areas.
Talking to Asian Scientist Magazine, Mr. Mazhar Nisar, the spokesperson for the Pakistani Prime Minister’s Polio Monitoring Cell, Islamabad, said that it has also been made mandatory for all children under the age of 15 to undergo vaccination as they pass through these checkpoints.
“To protect children from falling prey to polio in inaccessible or security compromised areas, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) health authorities have invoked the transit strategy where children up to 15 years of age are being vaccinated at 56 polio posts on exit and entry points of FATA and district borders of KP. Special polio points have also been created on toll-plazas of highways and motorways,” Nisar said.
Nisar acknowledged that there were challenges in vaccinating children who did not pass through these checkpoints.
“We have challenges; we have to understand the local traditions and conditions. We are in contact with local elders, who are very influential. We have briefed 730 religious scholars from different schools of thoughts to advocate the polio campaign. We are working on it and we hope for the good.”
In 2011, the Government established the Polio Eradication Monitoring System which made changes to the way polio vaccinations are carried out. Deputy Commissioners (DC) are now leading the campaign instead of Executive District Officers (EDO).
Mr. Nisar told Asian Scientist Magazine that under the National Emergency Action Plan for Polio 2011, the Prime Minister has taken on the responsibility of monitoring the polio campaign, which now also involves provincial Chief Ministers.
“As a result of our efforts, in the first six months of 2012, a drop of 62 percent on incidence of polio cases has been witnessed. Only three cases from Quetta and no case from Karachi have been reported, which is a major breakthrough,” he said.
In July 2012, the Taliban banned the polio vaccination campaign in parts of the KP and FATA. It is estimated that approximately 700,000 children will be affected by the ban, out of which 350,000 are under the age of five.
Dr. Elias Durry, the World Health Organization’s Senior Coordinator for Polio Eradication, revealed that over 260,000 children in the tribal areas of North and South Waziristan and areas of Khyber agency could not be immunized in the three-day government-led National Polio Campaign.
Pakistan and Afghanistan have been witnessing an increase in the incidence of polio cases between 2006 to 2011. In 2011, 198 confirmed cases in Pakistan were reported as compared to 40 cases in 2006.
One major reason for the increase in polio cases has been poor vaccination coverage in Southern Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan, including FATA, KP, and Balochistan from 2006 to 2011.
But according to Dr. Durry, the program is showing improvement as only 22 cases have been reported from FATA and KP for the first six months of this year, against the 58 confirmed cases from the same area between the first six months of 2011.
Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine; Photo: Curt Carnemark/World Bank.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.