Increasing Polio Cases

Balochistan has so far confirmed 15 cases of the crippling virus this year

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Editorial:

There seems to be no end in sight for the eradication of poliovirus from the country in general and Balochistan in particular. A 17-month old minor girl fell prey to the crippling virus in Chaman, Pakistan’s bordering city with Afghanistan on July 18th. With the confirmation of fresh polio cases, the number of cases reached 15 during the current year as compared to 12 during 2019.

Anti polio campaigns are underway for the last more than three decades. However, the crippling virus is yet to be eradicated from the province. Resources are being pumped with thousands of polio workers and volunteers participating in every polio drive, but, the desired results are yet to be achieved.

At the end of every polio campaign, the officials claim that targets have been achieved and declare success. In fact, this muzzling claim is not confined to Balochistan as all anti-polio cells established in other provinces too make such claims.

Officials term refusal on the part of parents in some parts of Quetta, Pishin and Killa Abdullah as the underlying reason behind polio cases in the province. UNICEF, World Health Organization (WHO) and the Balochistan government have engaged some will-known religious scholars to convince the parents refusing polio drops. Despite regular engagement of religious scholars, any breakthrough in terms of decreasing the number of refusals is yet to be made.

Balochistan had reported highest number of polio cases i.e. 73 during the year 2011 and 22 of them were reported from Killa Abdullah district that borders with neighboring Afghanistan.

The first polio drive since the suspension of the campaign four months back in the aftermath of the outbreak of novel coronavirus is scheduled to be commenced in Quetta from tomorrow (July 20th). The targets must be achieved. The officials must go beyond statements and claims and make sure that every kid is administered polio drops.  The health of our children must not be taken lightly and all-out efforts should be made to eradicate the crippling virus before it is too late.

The fact that polio cases keep emerging is a sign that immunization drives carried out earlier in the year may also have missed their intended targets. The battle against polio is long and Pakistan has just begun its struggle anew. Polio teams have been repeatedly targeted in terrorist attacks in Quetta and other parts of Balochistan in this past. Yes, salute to those volunteers and polio workers who sacrificed their lives to provide polio drops to children.

Apart from religious scholars, tribal elders, teachers, media and Balochistan-based non-governmental organizations (NGOs) need to be engaged to make the campaign a success. The concerned quarters need to review their strategy and ensure transparency and credibility when it comes to its complete eradication to save the lives of children across the province.

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