71% increase in Polio since last 2 years
By Sana Jamal
ISLAMABAD – “Polio has had a 71% increase in Pakistan in 2 the last 2 years with 84 cases of polio in 2009 to 144 and rising in 2010-2011” which signifies indifferent attitude of the health authorities regarding the harmful disease of polio. These views were shared by experts at a session on ‘Critical Need to Improve Immunization in FATA’ arranged by PILDAT in Islamabad on Thursday.
Sharing the alarming figures of polio increase in FATA, experts told that “of the 144 cases of polio in Pakistan in 2010, 74 occurred in FATA alone – which indicate that 25% of the children in FATA are inaccessible for polio immunization” calling for support and timely policies of government regarding the immunization campaign in FATA especially.
Key speakers at the seminar noted that FATA is the key to achieve the goal of polio eradication in Pakistan, and urged the FATA MPs to play their due role in creating awareness regarding the hazards of polio among the masses.
Munir Khan, Orakzai MNA and Parliamentary leader FATA in the National Assembly chaired the session while the speakers included Senator Saleh Shah Quraishi; Engineer Shaukat Ullah, Federal Minister for SAFRON; Bilal Rehman, MNA; Kamran Khan, MNA; Abdul Maalik Wazir, MNA; Senator Hafiz Rasheed Ahmed and Samina Mushtaq Pagganwala, MNA, member Parliamentary Caucus to promote
Immunization in Pakistan; Dr. Azhar Abid Raza, Health Specialist UNICEF and Dr. Altaf Bosan, National Progamme Manager-Expanded Programme of Immunization.
Munir Khan Orakzai said that the “situation in FATA is indicative of lack of government’s interest and it is largely the Health administration’s inability to manage the spread of virus. He believed greater awareness campaigns need to be run in FATA using Pashto radio and religious leaders should be involved to give brief statements on radio attesting immunization.
Azhar Abid Raza said that the target to reach 10 million children in 65 high risk districts was set in 2004 and 26 districts achieved elimination status in that year. “However polio has persisted and today 75% of polio cases in Pakistan are identified only in KPK and FATA.” 32 children recently affected from polio never had a single drop of polio vaccine, he added.
Dr. Altaf Bosan said that around 50% children in FATA because of inaccessibility, lake of awareness and low performance of immunization teams. He requested parliamentarians to play their role in creating awareness among masses and monitoring the performance of administration.
Shaukat Ullah was of the view that the “major hurdle in FATA is inaccessibility” where FATA MPs can help point to people/areas where support can be coordinated for immunization.
Ms. Aasiya Riaz, of PILDAT gave presentation on the critical need to improve immunization in FATA. She presented figures on the alarming situation of polio in FATA in order to highlight the issue and create awareness in this regard.
Originally published in Pakistan Observer (25 Feb. 2011)