PESHAWAR: Environmental water samples taken from Shaheen Muslim Town in Peshawar have tested negative for poliovirus for the first time in the last 20 months.

Officials said that Sehat Ka Insaf programme launched by the provincial government played significant role in the achievement. They said the area had emerged as polio-infected for which World Health Organisation declared Peshawar a world polio reservoir.

Officials at health department told this scribe that the environmental samples taken from sewerage lines of Shaheen Muslim Town tested negative for poliovirus. The site remained positive for poliovirus since July 2012 and transported poliovirus to Afghanistan and other countries, officials said.

“This is a big achievement in the current scenario since Peshawar has attracted global attention for being the source of transportation of virus to the countries previously declared polio-free. It is a big leap forward and a positive step towards the goal of worldwide polio eradication,” officials said.

According to them, it is a phenomenal achievement for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa which along with Federally Administered Tribal Areas is facing daunting task of eradication of polio. Both the province and Fata had reported 75 and 10 polio cases out of the 93 cases last year and recorded all 22 nationwide reported cases in 2014.

Fata recorded 19 polio cases, all from North Waziristan Agency, while three cases were registered in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa including two in Peshawar and one in Bannu, officials said.

The development is also significant because other big cities like Karachi, Lahore, Quetta, Multan, Rawalpindi, Sukkur and Hyderabad were emerging negative for the wild poliovirus while Peshawar had showed no progress.

Besides Shaheen Muslim Town, water samples collected from areas in formerly infected cities had also been tested negative but Peshawar posed continuous threat to polio efforts, officials said.

“On the basis of uninterrupted circulation of wild poliovirus in water, Peshawar was declared as polio hub by WHO in January 2014,” they said.

They gave credit to Sehat Ka Insaf initiative for coping with the public child health issue. Officials said that it was due to political ownership of the immunisation programme that district management, health department and above all the community accepted and cooperated in implementation of Sehat Ka Insaf activities in Peshawar.

“The model adopted by the government to deal with vaccination of nine childhood ailments including polio has come under national and international spotlight. The Sindh government has been contemplating to replicate Sehat Ka Insaf in Karachi, another polio-endemic city,” officials said.