ISLAMABAD, Aug 1: A latest report has revealed that Pakistan is no longer on the top of the list of polio endemic countries of the world.
The country’s monitoring body for Polio Eradication, the Prime Minister’s Polio Monitoring and Coordination Cell shared a report with Dawn on Wednesday.
It said that as the virus spread raises concern for the international community, latest polio case reports state that “We are no more the country with the maximum number of polio cases reported this year.”
Recent statistics compared to 2011 have shown that there has been a decrease of 65 percent in the number of cases reported in Pakistan. Around this time of the year, last year, Pakistan had confirmed 71 cases.
Nigeria has replaced Pakistan as the country with the highest number of polio cases this year, the case count being 57 so far. 27 cases have so far been reported in Pakistan.
An official of the polio cell said that with improved coverage and stringent accountability, oversight and monitoring measures, Pakistan has managed to slip down from an unenviable position of being the country with the highest number of polio cases in the world.
Pakistan along with Nigeria and Afghanistan remains one of the three countries left with polio virus in the world. Last year the total count was 198 in Pakistan. The situation raised alarm bells and the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared a global health emergency.
The official said that polio eradication still remains a grave concern for the government; the country has shown great potential to fight for a cause and eradicate the disease.
According to the prime minister’s monitoring cell, data collected recently shows that environment sample of 43 districts was positive for polio virus, whereas in 2011, the water samples taken from the environment disclosed that 108 districts were affected.
Also the number of districts reporting one or more polio cases has also shrunk drastically from 28 infected districts last year, to 13 this year.
He said that Balochistan which was the most volatile of all the provinces has also managed to bring down its number of affected districts from seven in 2011, to just one this year.
“The country’s biggest city Karachi has not reported a single case this year,” asserted the official.
Areas of Karachi such as Baldia, which was the hotspot for polio — in the past — have not reported a single case and even the environment sampling was negative.
The official admitted that as figures keep declining, some areas still remain a concern and a challenge for the government.
“Where we (federal government) managed to touch 97 per cent coverage in Punjab during July round of national immunisation campaigns; areas such as Rahim Yar Khan and districts of Lahore that are overly populated and crowded raise concerns,” said the official.
Other areas such as Tank in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa are also seen as areas which need more focus and better management to achieve results.