PESHAWAR, Aug 1: Four new polio cases have been reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas, taking the countrywide number of the children affected by the crippling disease this year to 27.
The relevant officials told Dawn on Wednesday that none of the four children received any dose of oral polio vaccine.
They said Mardan district recorded first polio case of the year as six-year-old Suleiman Islam, a resident of Mohib Banda village, had tested positive for polio.
According to officials, the boy’s family is a follower of local cleric Noorul Huda, who has declared polio vaccination un-Islamic.
They said the people’s refusal to get their children vaccinated against polio, especially in Fata, had become a major problem for local and international health organisations whose efforts to increase the tribesmen’s awareness of immunisation had failed to bear fruit.
Officials said the second polio victim belonged to Khyber Agency and he, too, hadn’t got any dose of OPV.
They said Hanifullah, 3, a resident of Akakhel area, couldn’t be vaccinated as vaccinators had no access to his troubled area since 2009.
According to them, he is the 10th polio case from Khyber Agency this year.
Officials said the third new polio sufferer was six-month-old Naureen, a resident of Lakki Marwat area in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, who, too, was crippled for being unvaccinated.
They said the fourth case was Suleman from Bajaur Agency, which also remained off-limits for vaccinators on security grounds.
Officials said Fata had so far reported 13 new polio cases, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa six, Balochistan four, Sindh three and Punjab one during the current year.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation has expressed concern over 584,046 children missing vaccination during the last anti-polio campaign and said these children threatened the 35 million targeted population of immunisable ages.
In a statement, the WHO said the children, who could not be reached during the countrywide immunisation campaign (July16-18), included 528,271, who missed administration of OPV, and 55,775 whose parents sent away vaccinators.
According to it, Quetta reported the highest number of immunisation refusal cases (5,589) followed by Peshawar (4,982), Pishin (3,568), Jacobabad (2,314), Karak (1,919), Bannu (1,886), Mardan (1,685), Charsadda (676), Multan (438), Gujranwala (383) and Abbottabad (318).
The WHO said around 19,000 children in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa didn’t receive OPV due to their parents’ refusals.
It said reaching out to every child was the only way to eradicate polio from Pakistan, which was among the three countries (Nigeria and Afghanistan) only where polio was prevalent.
The WHO said Taliban had already banned vaccination in Waziristan putting the health of 3,18,000 children at risk.
Experts say July is the beginning of high transmission season for poliovirus and urged aggressive vaccination.
“Last year, we had detected 72 polio cases as of August 1,” he said.