Bannu boy is year’s first polio case in KP
PESHAWAR, Feb 8: The first polio case of the year in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was reported on Friday as a 13-month-old boy from Bannu district tested positive for the crippling virus.
Samples of Muzakar Khan’s stool were sent to the National Institute of Health on Jan 26 after doctors suspected him of being a polio victim.
The NIH confirmed the polio case on Friday.
The officials said the child from Gul Hassan village in Amandi Union Council hadn’t received a single dose of oral polio vaccine as his parents always sent vaccinators away.
“His parents fear OPV will render his son impotent and that he will never be able to produce children in case of vaccination.
Despite repeated attempts, they didn’t understand the significance of the vaccine. As a result, their child is disabled for entire life,” said an official in Bannu.
The officials said the area had many people, who were opposed to vaccination of their children against polio, and therefore, a polio outbreak was being feared there.
They said Bannu was home to thousands of children from North and South Waziristan agencies, where Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan had banned polio vaccination in June last year.
According to them, the ban left around 300,000 children unvaccinated and thus, putting them at the risk of being crippled.
The officials said chances were that the virus had traveled from North and South Waziristan, which had reported one polio case each last year, to Bannu courtesy unimmunised children frequently visiting the settled district from these tribal areas.
They feared a polio outbreak in Bannu, which remained polio-free in 2012 when the province reported 26 of the 58 countrywide cases.
“Last year, we managed to cut the number of the people refusing polio vaccination of their children to 54 only with the support of National Development and Research Foundation, an NGO that had engaged local religious leaders. However, Unicef ended its collaboration with NRDF for some unexplained reasons, leading to surge in vaccination refusal cases,” an official said.
He said around 5,000 vaccination refusal cases had been reported in the district.
The officials said Unicef, which was to create demand for OPV through social mobilisation, had been unable to do the task due to the growing Taliban hostility towards vaccinators.
“Around 12 vaccinators and health workers have been killed over the last one and a half months in the province terrifying other members of the community. Nobody is willing to be part of vaccination in areas, where thousands of parents have declined vacation of their children,” an official said.
The official said last year, Pakistan had reported the second highest number of polio cases after Nigeria, whose 100 children were crippled by the virus, and that it was considered polio reservoir and thus, a threat to polio-free countries.
He added that Pakistan was under tremendous pressure to eliminate polio through repeated vaccination of children under five.
“The World Health Organisation is also concerned about unvaccinated children and possible polio outbreaks,” he said.
The officials said polio vaccinators missed around 70,000 children, while 20,000 became victim of immunisation refusal in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during every polio campaign.
They said unvaccinated children were a threat to vaccinated children.
“Unless we vaccinate all children under five, polio will continue to haunt us,” an official said.