Polio vaccination drive kicks off in Balochistan

Updated 10 Nov 2014

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A polio worker gives vaccine to a young girl. — AFP/File
A polio worker gives vaccine to a young girl. — AFP/File

QUETTA: A polio vaccination campaign was launched amid tight security in 11 districts of Balochistan on Monday.

During the campaign, over 238,000 children below the age of five will be administered polio vaccine.

Chief Minister Balochistan, Dr Malik Baloch has taken serious notice of increasing polio cases in the country’s largest province and directed all elected members to stay in their constituencies during the campaign.

The districts where the campaign was launched include Quetta, Killa Saifullah, Killa Abdullah, Sherani, Zhob, Pishin, Loralai, Naseerabad, Jaffarabad and Lasbela.

"We will eradicate polio virus from Balochistan with the support of civil society," Dr Malik Baloch said in a statement issued on Monday.

He also directed all concerned departments to double their efforts to eliminate the crippling virus.

Strict security arrangements were adopted by the provincial government and police and Levies personnel were escorting the polio workers to guard them while they administer vaccine to children below the age of five years.

"We have provided security to all teams," an officer of the Balochistan Home and Tribal Affairs Department told Dawn on the condition anonymity.

The provincial health department has also set up mobile teams at airports, railway stations and all other exit and entry points of Quetta city to make the campaign a success.

Workers administering polio drops were also deployed at all national highways of the province.

Also read: Polio case reported after two-and-a-half years in Balochistan

At least 10 cases of polio were reported so far from Quetta, Killa Abdullah and Zhob districts of Balochistan this year.

Dr Ishaq Panezai, an officer of the health department termed refusal as the underlying reason behind increasing polio cases.

Also read: ‘Refusal major cause of Balochistan polio cases’

The Chief Minister Dr Malik Baloch has urged clerics, teachers, politicians and people belonging to different walks of life to make joint efforts to eradicate the virus.

Militant groups often attack polio teams as they see vaccination campaigns as a cover for espionage. There are also long running rumours about polio drops causing infertility.

Balochistan had been polio free for almost more than two years. However, first polio case was reported from Balochistan's Killa Abdullah district in July this year.

Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world where polio remains endemic, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria. Efforts to eradicate it have been seriously hampered by the deadly targeting of vaccination teams in recent years.