ISLAMABAD, July 13: With insecurity and ban imposed by militant groups staring the polio drives in the face in North and South Waziristan, Prime Minister’s Polio Monitoring and Coordination Cell Friday drew up a new transit strategy to reach children with vaccines.

Explaining how it had been long since vaccination campaigns were held, an official working for Polio Eradication confided to Dawn that strategy was being introduced to cover children while they were on the move.

The strategy entailed fire-walling the tribal agencies with transit teams at the entry and exit points to administer polio drops to all children entering and exiting the areas.

“We are trying to grab as many children as we can and ensure that no child in our vicinity misses vaccination,” said the official associated with the programme and added that as many as 45 Polio Points had been established at the entry and exit points between Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and all individuals up to the age of 15 years were being immunised at these points.

Due to constant law and order problem prevailing in the areas like Bara, polio campaigns had been postponed in North and South Waziristan.

“Since there is a huge exodus of people from the troubled areas, we are trying to take advantage of it by immunising as many as we can,” the official explained.

Under the strategy, Internally Displayed Persons (IDPs) and Afghan migrants would be specifically targeted in camps, settlements and while traveling.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister and National Focal Person on Polio Eradication Shahnaz Wazir Ali when contacted said the National Highways and Motorway Police (NHMP) was already working to immunise children traveling all across Pakistan through special polio vaccination points set  up at the toll plazas and the scheme had helped us reach over 50,000 children in each round.

Moreover, Prime Minister’s Polio Monitoring and Coordination Cell had already been in discussion with Pakistan Railways (PR) in forging a partnership which would aim to reach for the children traveling by trains during the campaign dates. Under the plan, special polio points would be established at all railways stations in the first phase and subsequently all moving trains would have polio teams, confirmed Health Education Adviser at the National Polio Monitoring Cell, Mazhar Nisar.

There was also a large proportion of Pashtun population traveling between Karachi, Fata, KP and Quetta. In collaboration with transporter associations and administration of bus terminals, Pashto speaking teams were being planned to be stationed at all the bus terminals and a meeting in this connection had already taken place last month in Karachi.

To ensure that the crippling disease did not cross borders, permanent and active cross-border teams with Afghanistan were also operational.

A total of 22 teams in Fata were working at eight crossing points between Pakistan and Afghanistan and three crossing points in Balochistan. This was over and above the vaccination point established at Sost on Pak-China border, the official explained.

Eight rounds of the anti-polio campaign are held every year with four nationwide and an equal number of sub-national campaigns for the ‘high risk’ districts.

Approximately 33.4 million children aged less than five years had been immunised throughout the country in the national round. And over 20 million children were covered during the sub-national campaigns.

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