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KP plans aggressive polio eradication campaigns

September 15, 2014


— File photo
— File photo

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has planned aggressive anti-polio campaigns following approval of funds by the federal government for immunisation activities.

With focus on the high-risk districts, the provincial health department has decided to conduct 15 campaigns from Oct 2014 to June 2015. The federal government on Thursday approved Rs33 billion emergency plan for polio eradication in the country.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which had recorded 25 of total 147 countrywide cases in 2014 so far, desperately needed funds to vaccinate children ahead of low transmission season starting from October and scale up children’s immunity against poliovirus besides continuing its routine immunisation activities.

The campaigns had been planned in a way to reach children in high-risk districts, including Peshawar, Mardan, Charsadda, Lakki Marwat, DI Khan and Tank, where poliovirus existed and children stood exposed to infection.

Lack of funds has badly hampered the vaccination’s schedule not only in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas, but also in other parts of the country. Now the province is back on track to run full-scale immunisation activities.

High-risk districts and those near Fata to get more attention

The international donors had stopped funding for anti-polio activities in Pakistan last year after its failure to eradicate polio despite running vaccination programme since 1994. However, the government faced global pressure to continue vaccination because polio continue to pose serious threat to the countries long-declared free of the crippling disease.

Resumption of immunisation activities as government-run programme was also necessary because delay in immunisation could have snowballed into major public health issue, officials said.

They said that Pakistan had already recorded most cases by any of the endemic countries and non-vaccination could have resulted in wastage of 20-year of vaccination in the country. The officials said that the federal government had obtained loan from the Islamic Development Bank to buy vaccines and plan immunisation activities throughout the country.

The officials said that the health department would conduct the campaigns within nine months because the oral polio vaccine had been scientifically proven to be more effective in the low transmission season. The province had carried out three campaigns after the UAE issued funds under its Pakistan Assistance Programme, but the campaign was conducted in 11 districts only.

The immunisation plan is need-based. Children who lived near the non-vaccinated children from Waziristan and Bara required more doses to protect them from poliovirus.

In some districts, there will be three campaigns in one month. Children in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa risk poliovirus infection due to its proximity with the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, which has registered the highest number of 107 polio cases in the country. Fata, which is directly ruled by the federal government, has been a continuous threat to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa because its infected children come here frequently.

Displacement of unvaccinated children from North Waziristan Agency has left the provincial authorities with no option, but to start aggressive vaccination in southern districts, including Bannu, Lakki Marwat, DI Khan, where they are staying. In some cases the unvaccinated children from Bara, Khyber Agency, have infected local children in Peshawar.

Published in Dawn, September 15th , 2014