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Growing polio cases Governor fears travel ban on Pakistanis

Dawn Report 2013-10-25
PESHAWAR, Oct 24: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Shaukatullah Khan on Thursday feared that Pakistanis could face travel restrictions over the growing polio cases in the country.

`If the situation (high polio incidence) is not handled on war footing, there could be a ban on Pakistanis wanting to travel to Saudi Arabia for Haj and Umrah as well as workers,` he said during a World Polio Day function at the Governor`s House.

He said increase in polio cases in various parts of Fata was a matter of grave concern but the government was committed to meeting the challenge effectively.

The governor said 37 polio cases had been reported in Fata in 2013, which was 75 per cent of the total nationwide cases of the year.

He said the areas worst hit by polio were North Waziristan and Khyber agencies, where vaccinators faced resistance to give polio drops to children.

Mr Shaukatullah said there was a need to increase public awareness of threats to the children`s health in case they`re not vaccinated.

He said the country would have to decide if it wanted a disabled future for children or wanted to save them from becoming a socioeconomic burden for it.

The governor praised vaccinators for fighting polio by endangering their lives in the restive parts of Fata.

He pushed youths to take a lead role in polio eradication campaign and help protect tribal children from a permanent physical disability.

Fata Secretary (Social Sector) Dr Aftab Akbar Durrani, who was also in attendance, said polio had been eradicated from the world due to consistent efforts but it was endemic in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.

He said there was a dire need to create public awareness of the incapacitating disease to ensure that polio drops are administered to every child.

Dr Sarfraz Afridi of WHO gave a detailed presentation on the current polio situation in tribal areas and said regular monitoring of health workers in Fata would be conducted.

He said anyone found with lethargic attitude towards polio eradication would be dealt with strictly.

Also in the day, a walk was held inMohmand Agency Headquarters, Ghalanai, to mark World Polio Day to create public awareness of polio vaccination.

Political Agent of Mohmand Khushal Khan, Assistant Political Agent Zeeshan Mehsud, Agency Surgeon Dr Mohammad Tahir, Agency Education Officer Said Mohammad, schoolteachers and students also participated in the walk, which began from the Government Higher Secondary and ended at the local administration`s offices.

Speaking on the occasion, the political agent said in Asia, Pakistan and Afghanistan had yet to eradicate polio, while African states, where poliovirus existed, were Egypt, Niger and Nigeria.

He appealed to the parents to get every child vaccinated against polio. `Some people think that a child should be vaccinated only once. We want to tell parents that every child should be vaccinated during every campaign,` he said.

The assistant political agent said there was no room for complacency on polio eradication but the situation appeared to be well within control for the time being.

He urged the health department officials to involve other partners and sectors in fight against polio.

A similar walk was held in Ekkaghound.

APA Naeemullah led the walk, where schoolteachers and students were in attendance.

Participants urged parents to ensure that their every child is vaccinated against polio during every immunisation campaign.

Rallies and seminars marked the World Polio Day in Bajaur Agency on Thursday.

A seminar was organised by the local health deportment in collaboration with the United Nations Children`s Fund (Unicef) at Agency Headquarters Hospital, where speakers called for better public awareness for polio elimination.

Elders, religious scholars, health experts, WHO and Unicef representatives, and senior officials of the local administration and health deportment participated in the seminar.

The speakers, including Additional Political Agent Imran Hameed Sheikh, Agency Surgeon Dr Zakir Hussain, ex-MNA Syed Akhunzada Chattan and Unicef representative Rafiq Ahmad, expressed concern over the increasing vaccination refusal cases and low coverage of far-flung areas during the immunisation campaigns.

They called for corrective measures without delay.