LAHORE, Jan 23: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan on Wednesday slammed the rising death toll in the measles epidemic that has claimed the lives of nearly 500 children across the country in the last few weeks.

In a statement, the commission said: “HRCP notes with great alarm that hundreds of children have died of measles in Sindh and deaths have also been reported from all the other provinces and FATA as well.”

It stated there was no mystery as to why measles has had such a steep toll in the past month. The deaths occurred simply because the state-run immunisation programme either missed the children or the vaccine administered to them did not work. “It is unheard of, utterly unacceptable, and quite frankly criminal that in this day and age our children are losing their lives to a disease, which can be prevented through a straightforward immunisation programme,” it added.

“One now hears many the ories that the epidemic might have broken out after UN agencies fell short in providing the vaccines in adequate quantities or the vaccine cold-chain maintenance might have been compromised. If that were the case why was alarm not raised earlier? The loss of any child’s life is an incalculable horror and yet over a month after the first deaths were reported the disease continues to claim children’s lives.”

The commission said this was a damning verdict on the state immunisation machinery. It demanded the government immediately start crash immunisation programmes and subsequent booster to ensure every child was covered.

Simultaneously, it said, community education should also be focused on to explain and promote the benefits and importance of measles immunisation and other vaccinations for children.

“The government is under an obligation to explain to the people why measles suddenly became deadly in Pakistan, why the disease claimed children’s lives for weeks and what is being done to avert such a tragedy in the future,” the HRCP stated.

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