As IDPs arrive, twin cities gear up to tackle poliovirus

Updated 20 Jun 2014


File photo
File photo

ISLAMABAD: As some of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) from North Waziristan arrived in the twin cities, the local administration of Rawalpindi announced three anti-polio campaigns during the month of Ramazan.

An official of the Ministry of National Health Services requesting anonymity told Dawn that it had been confirmed that the IDPs had started reaching in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi and staying with their relatives.

“The administration of Rawalpindi has decided to hold three-polio campaigns in Ramazan to avoid the chances of any polio outbreak in the city. However, so far no special campaign has been planned for the federal capital,” he said.

Pindi admin plans three special anti-polio drives in Ramazan

“There have been no polio cases in Islamabad for the last many years but it does not mean that the anti-polio campaigns should not be launched in such a critical situation. If the poliovirus spreads because of the IDPs, it will be impossible to control it for months,” he said.

Dr Hasan Orooj, the director health services of the Capital Development Authority (CDA), told Dawn that there was no need of launching a campaign in Islamabad as there was no threat of poliovirus in the city.

“In recent tests, we have found traces of polio vaccine in the sewage of the federal capital which shows that every child in the capital had been vaccinated.” Dr Urooj also said children had no threat from the IDPs.

“As a precautionary measure, on Thursday I had a meeting with the Islamabad Traffic Police officials during which it was decided that every child coming from North Waziristan to the capital city would be administered polio drops at the motorway and Tarnol,” he said.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) suggested that the government of Pakistan should ensure that the IDPs are administered vaccines at the time of their registration. Moreover, health facilities should be provided in the IDP camps as well as to those who will be staying in the houses of their relatives.

Dr Durray Ilyas, the head of the WHO Polio Programme in Pakistan, while talking to Dawn said it was a very distressful time for the people who were moving out of North Waziristan.

The IDPs are vulnerable to diseases because of malnutrition and they need health facilities.

“The WHO has been trying its best to support the government in such a difficult situation. The IDPs need healthcare, shelter and other facilities. The WHO has been trying to ensure that every child is immunised at the exit point of Waziristan.”

Dr Ilyas added: “According to my information, the IDPs are in tens of thousands but the number can increase to hundreds of thousands in the next few days or weeks.”

In reply to a question, he said there was no shortage of polio vaccine and if every child coming out of the Waziristan was given the vaccine once, the danger of a massive outbreak of the crippling disease would be reduced even if they shifted to other areas of the country.

“The WHO is also aware that a number of people will shift to the houses of their relatives so we are in touch with the health departments to ensure facilities to every IDP,” he added.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2014