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Three new polio cases reported from tribal areas

By Ashfaq Yusufzai 2014-05-20
PESHAWAR: The World Health Organisation asked the government to get the ban on immunisation in Waziristan lifted and ensure access to children there to stem the tide of poliovirus after three new cases were reported from the tribal region on Monday.

Militants placed ban on administering anti-polio vaccine to children in June 2012, saying it was a ploy of the US to spy on its enemies and kill them in drone attacks.

`The prevalent outbreak in North Waziristan and cases in South Waziristan are the result of ban. All cases have been emerged there after the imposition of ban. It is agrim reminder of the situation,` Dr Elias Durry, WHO senior polio coordinator in Pakistan, told Dawn.

His concern came after three new cases were reported on Monday, including two from North Waziristan and one from South Waziristan Agency.

North and South Waziristan agencies have been responsible for 44 and five cases respectively of the countrywide 66 in 2014 and also pose real threat to global polio-eradication efforts.

`The situation can snowball into major public health problem if we fail to access to the children, who hadn`t been vaccinated,` Dr Durry said. All cases have been tested positive for lack of vaccination since the restrictions on oral polio vaccine, he said.

The world health agency was extending technical assistance to the government regarding immunisation efforts in Pakistan to safeguard children against the crippling vac-cine-preventable childhood allment, he said.

`Polio can be prevented only through vaccination,` he said.

Dr Durry appreciated Sehat Ka Insaf programme of provincial health department and said that a similar drive could wipe out the diseases from Waziristan within a period of six to eight weeks. `We have to do away with the ban as soon as possible,` he said.About Khyber Pakhtunkhwa`s concerns regarding transportation of polio virus to Peshawar from the neighbouring Afghanistan, he said: `We have been holding cross-border meetings with local and Afghan authorities wherein vaccination of children on border points are discussed.

Dr Durry said that both the countries were inter-linked and only coordinated between them could finish the virus. Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria were the three polio-endemic countries left in the worldand the entire world risked the disease as far as a single virus existed in any country, he said.

He said that they were enhancing vaccination centres on the border to immunise all the children, who passed it. Both the countries had similar issues, which needed to be addressed through coordination, he said.

`On Pakistan`s part it is important to carry out vaccination in Fata and safeguard not only local children but also in adjacent areas of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,` Dr Durry said.

Officials said that 61 (92.4 per cent) of the nationwide cases were recorded from Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa which included 74.2 per cent from North and South Waziristan agencies.

The circulation of virus and nonvaccination of children for the past two years in Waziristan could jeopardise the success achieved by the province, they said.