Except for a few districts, the new year’s first national polio campaign was launched to vaccinate over 34 million children across the country on Monday.
However, due to the security reasons, unavailability of staff and harsh weather conditions, the anti-polio drive could not be launched in a few districts.
Because of the prevailing security situation, the campaign would be carried out in three phases in Karachi. Also, the drive was postponed in five districts of Balochistan: Zhob, Sherani, Loralai, Musa Khel and Qilla Saifullah. Mansehra, Chitral, Battagram and some areas in Skardu were not included in the campaign due to the severe weather conditions and snowfall. The shortage of field staff also led to the postponement of the drive in Bannu. It may be noted that the government and UN agencies have expressed their resolve to eradicate the crippling disease from the country during the current year. An official of the Ministry of National Health Services requesting not to be identified said poliovirus was at the verge of eradication during the tenure of the previous government but the caretakers ignored the programme in 2013 due to which the virus started spreading again. “Polio cases, which were being reported only from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and some parts of Karachi, started reporting from all over the country,” he said.
Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Eradication MNA Ayesha Raza Farooq confirmed that the polio campaign had been postponed in some areas because of different reasons. Speaking at the inaugural ceremony at the directorate of health services, Ms Farooq said snowbound areas in Mansehra, Chitral and Battagram were not included in the campaign while in Bannu it was postponed due t to the shortage of field staff. She said because of the security issues, the anti-polio drive would be launched in Karachi in three phases. The first phase will be conducted from January 19 to 22 in the East, West and Malir districts, the four-day Phase II will start from January 23 in Korangi, Central and South while the Phase III will be organised from January 24 to 27 in the 11 ‘super high-risk’ union councils of Gadap, Baldia, SITE, Landhi, Orangi, Bin Qasim, Liaquatabad and Korangi. Ms Farooq said the campaign had been postponed in the districts of Zhob, Sherani, Loralai, Musa Khel and Qilla Saifullah in Balochistan. In line with the decision taken by the Cabinet Committee on Immunisation, the Ministry of Interior has been assigned the task of coordinating with the provinces for the security of the polio teams,” she said.
Dr Hassan Orooj, the director health services, Capital Development Authority (CDA), said during the three-day campaign 261,261 children would be vaccinated in Islamabad. Talking to Dawn, Dr Orooj said the federal capital had been divided into 15 zones. As many as 549 teams would administer polio drops to the children. Dr Orooj said 11 environmental samples in Islamabad were found negative for the poliovirus and the city had been free from the crippling disease for about 10 years. “We have carried out an analysis of the high-risk population and the polio teams four times visited all such houses where children were not available,” he said.