Pakistan and its neighbor Afghanistan are the last two countries to be hit by the polio epidemic. This is unsurprising given that North Waziristan shares a western border with Afghanistan that is almost indecipherable to people and animals.
After a year and a half of polio-free Pakistan, there was some hope that the decades-long war against this debilitating illness had finally come to an end.
However, two new instances of the Wild Polio Virus (WPV) have emerged in Pakistan’s North Waziristan district, followed by three, four, and now eight cases, raising the question of when socioeconomic disparities would be a reason for children to suffer.
The Anti-polio Campaign
Given the dismal situation, Pakistan launched a new anti-polio campaign on May 23rd, more than a week after officials discovered the country’s third case of the year in the country’s northwestern border region with Afghanistan.
The campaign, which will be the third this year, will run for five days and attempt to immunize 40 million children under the age of five across the country.
Pakistan has already conducted two anti-polio campaigns this year, in January and March, after uncovering only one incidence of the disease last year, raising optimism that the country was on the verge of eradicating the disease.
To battle the spread of polio, Pakistan’s Ministry of National Health Services Regulations and Coordination (NHSR&C) has planned a countrywide anti-polio drive that will begin next week, immunizing about 43 million additional youngsters.
According to official declarations, 340,000 polio workers will take part in the nationwide anti-polio campaign, which was previously limited to only a few locations.
Parents, civil society, and the leaders have also been asked to join forces with authorities in this effort, according to the ministry.
Rapid Action To Eradicate Polio
Given the setbacks, officials on the ground say they are still committed to vaccinating all children in the country.
Considering difficult conditions in hard-to-reach locations, frontline polio workers in North Waziristan continue to reach out to children.
Partnership Programs For Vaccination
Additionally, the Pakistan government and global polio partners have already launched an emergency action plan to address the issues in Southern KP – unsettled and settled tribal areas such as North Waziristan, South Waziristan, and Bannu – to address the challenges in this portion of the province.
The Pakistani Medical Association (PMA) has also called for tougher laws against parents who refuse to immunize their children, claiming that this is a major source of new cases.
It’s time to beef up the polio case screening system along the Afghan border and in cities where polio samples have been discovered, he says, noting that such steps worked during COVID-19.
Pakistan’s government is trying its hardest to battle this endemic in the country crippling its growth. Moreover, when Bill Gates visited Pakistan he requested the world to continue their support for the country to fight the virus.
He expressed that of course, the final mile to eradicate polio will be difficult. That’s why it’s critical that the international community continue to assist polio programs in Pakistan and Afghanistan so that they don’t have to go on this journey alone.