The fight continues
“The situation is the first of its kind in Pakistan. It is indeed extremely shocking that polio workers, who save children from this crippling disease and disability, would meet such a fate,” says Dr Altaf Bosan, national coordinator, Prime Minister Polio Monitoring and Coordination Cell, Islamabad.
Pakistan is a signatory to the agreement made in World Health Assembly in 1988 for polio eradication. While the government has put in place revised plans and strategies to arrest the spread of polio, public representatives need to play a practical role to ensure they lend their support as well to oversee the success of polio eradication initiative in their constituencies across Pakistan.
On December 19, 2012, All Parties Conference declared polio “a national emergency” by signing a joint declaration committing “to save every Pakistani child from disability for life caused by polio viruses”. All major political parties vowed to “make polio eradication plan a part of their manifesto for general elections 2013.”
Although banned Pakistani Taliban has threatened polio vaccinators in the past, Dr Bosan clearly says, “No element has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks”.
Polio eradication is a priority programme for the entire country. “We still don’t know who is opposing it. Definitely we are facing problem in FATA but we are not linking this with the current situation,” adds Bosan.
In 2011, the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) for Polio Eradication declared the programme as “dysfunctional” and said that “Pakistan will be the last country to eradicate polio from the world”.
In response to the report, a critical review of National Emergency Action Plan for Polio Eradication was carried out by the government in consultations with provinces and partners. The plan was officially launched in 2012.
In its last meeting, IMB clearly said “Pakistan has raised its game and is on track to eradicate polio”. This is a big success.
The issues related to security are in the domain of district government. As soon as they are ready, we will restart the campaign.
As for preparedness, the district administration will provide leadership to this initiative by involving the key and concerned department officials. Our priority is to go for high risk, reach out to the missed children.
One in 10 children in Pakistan die before reaching the age of five, a majority of them due to vaccine preventable diseases. For Dr Zahid Larik, National Programme Manager, Expanded Programme on Immunisation, rejuvenating routine childhood immunisation is the need of the hour.