‘Polio on agenda of talks with Taliban’

Updated 25 Oct 2013

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Minister of State for Health Regulations Saira Afzal Tarar addresses media, representatives of National 
and International partners on the occasion of World Polio Day in Islamabad, 
Oct 24, 2013.   — Photo by PPI
Minister of State for Health Regulations Saira Afzal Tarar addresses media, representatives of National and International partners on the occasion of World Polio Day in Islamabad, Oct 24, 2013. — Photo by PPI

ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to include polio vaccination on the agenda of dialogue with the Taliban as 90 per cent of the cases during the current year have been reported from Fata where the militants have banned anti-polio campaigns.

This was stated by Minister of State for Health Regulations Saira Afzal Tarar while talking to mediapersons at a function held in connection with the World Polio Day here on Thursday.

It may be noted that Taliban have imposed a ban on polio vaccination campaigns in South and North Waziristan.

The minister said Taliban should understand the fact that children were suffering because of their ban on the polio drives.

She said so far this year 49 cases of polio had been reported in Pakistan — 36 in Fata, three in Punjab, four in Sindh and six in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“Polio virus circulation has been restricted to three zones i.e. Fata, Quetta and its neighbouring districts of Qilla Abdullah and Pishin and Karachi’s Gadap Town.”

Ms Tarar said one of the biggest obstacles in the eradication of polio was the lack of consistent access to children in the highest risk areas. She said 260,000 children in North and South Waziristan had not been vaccinated against polio since July 2012.

It may be noted that since July 2012, 24 health workers and policemen protecting them have been killed and 14 others injured in 24 targeted attacks on vaccinators in different parts of the country.

In reply to a question, the minister said it had been decided that the next round of the anti-polio campaign would be launched in November.

“The government of Sindh has assured us that full security would be provided to the polio teams.”

She said the government was also considering giving polio drops to children through injections because of its effectiveness. However, experts would be required to vaccinate the children.

Per Engebak, the chief of Unicef anti-polio program in Pakistan, said 65,000 families refused to vaccinate their children during the last polio campaign in the country.

Teams could reach only a few areas in Fata where 471 families refused to vaccinate their children.

World Health Organisation (WHO) representative Dr Nima Saeed Abid expressed the hope that polio teams would be able to move to Waziristan soon.

Federal Secretary Health Regulations Imtiaz Inayat Elahi said the donor agencies and non-governmental organisations were playing a positive role in the eradication of polio.

He said there were 34 million children under the age of five years in Pakistan and only 0.5 per cent of them were not vaccinated due to refusal by their parents.