PESHAWAR: This year’s polio cases have surpassed the last year’s tally of 58 to 62 with the relevant officials blaming it on the country’s failure to ensure quality polio vaccination, address immunisation refusal cases and reach all children under five years of age despite obtaining the $227 million loan from Islamic Development Bank for the eradication of the crippling disease.

According to the officials, the country’s poor performance on polio front is also seen as a breach of the trust of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (B&MGF), which had pledged to pay seven per cent annual interest on the IDB loan on behalf of Pakistan besides playing a vital role in the grant of the loan after the international donors’ refusal to give more funds for polio eradication.

Last year, Pakistan signed an agreement with IDB under which the latter began providing loan to the former in January 2013.

In total, IDB is to provide Pakistan with $227 million worth of loan over a period of three years in as many installments.

This year, North Waziristan and Khyber agencies and FR Bannu have reported 19, 17 and six cases respectively over the delicate security situation, while nine cases have surfaced in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, six in Punjab and four in Sindh.

All this shows widespread circulation of the virus, the officials said.

Previously, the polio programme suffered due to the involvement of foreign financial assistance, a factor which made clergy and the Taliban declare vaccination a Western ploy to render Muslims sterile.

And now when the programme is totally funded by the government, polio cases have surged. Major reasons for it are vaccination refusal and no access to certain restive areas.

According to the officials, the authorities in Fata are unable to vaccinate around 900,000 targeted children either due to the Taliban’s ban on vaccination in North and South Waziristan agencies last year or due to militancy and military action against militants in other agencies.

They said the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa health department had been paying Rs500 per day to vaccinators for security reasons unlike other provinces, where workers vaccinating children against polio received Rs250 each, but even then, they were unable to convince parents of more than 35,000 children about vaccination.

The officials said more than 32,000 vaccinators took part in polio campaigns, which cost the provincial government around Rs310 million in 2013.

They said vaccination refusal was a major hurdle to polio eradication.

An official said under the strategy, the provincial health department had to run three polio campaigns within four weeks of the detection of a case of the crippling disease in the surrounding locality.

He said the surfacing of a fresh case determined polio-related activities.

The official said first installment of IDB loan was secured in January this year, which was used for polio activities, including payment to field workers, purchase of oral polio vaccine and logistics.

He said bulk of the loan was being spent in areas, which had reported polio cases but vaccination refusal and missed children cases coupled with the Taliban’s ban on polio campaigns hampered efforts to free the country from the crippling disease.The official said Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation had urged Pakistani government to use the IDB loan for stepping up vaccination efforts to safeguard children against polio.

They said in the past, the government had accused donor agencies of failure to eradicate polio but it could no longer point an accusing finger towards them as it had been solely executing the programme since January 2013.

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