The new year’s first polio case was reported on Thursday morning from Balochistan’s Chaghi district.
Sources from the Balochistan Health Department told Dawn that the crippling virus was found in two-year-old Shafi Muhammad from the Barabcha area that lies close to the Pak-Afghan border.
This was the first polio case to be reported in 2015 in the country. “At this point in time, we cannot say whether the parents had refused polio drops,” sources said. A total of 22 polio cases were reported from Balochistan in 2014 — most of these were reported from Quetta, Killa Abdullah and Pishin districts of the province.
Polio teams have been facing tough resistance from extremists in the above-mentioned districts. In view of increasing polio cases, the provincial government has already declared emergency to eradicate the crippling virus in Balochistan. The Health Department had launched a special campaign in high-risk districts, including Quetta, Pishin, Killa Abdullah and other areas to ensure provision of polio drops to children below the age of five years.
Security has been tightened during polio campaigns in the aftermath of the cold-blooded murder of four polio workers in Quetta on November 26, 2014. 2014 shaped up to be the darkest year for the Pakistan polio programme, with the number of confirmed cases reaching 296 — the highest number of cases reported in the country since 1998.
Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world where polio remains endemic but efforts to eradicate the disease have been severely hindered in recent years as militants continue to attack immunisation teams and polio workers. Polio cases in Pakistan reached a low of 28 in 2005 but rose to 198 in 2011. In 2012, Pakistan had 58 cases, while 93 were recorded in 2013, as reported by End Polio Pakistan. -dawn