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Polio campaign postponed in Quetta due to 'inadequate security'

Updated March 02, 2015

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A health worker, guarded by security personnel, administers polio drops to a child in Quetta.—INP/file
A health worker, guarded by security personnel, administers polio drops to a child in Quetta.—INP/file

QUETTA: A scheduled polio campaign in Quetta was postponed owing to lack of security for vaccination teams on Monday.

The second phase of the vaccination drive was scheduled to be launched in Quetta in order to administer polio drops to children below the age of five years.

Sources in the Balochistan Health Department told Dawn that the provincial administration had failed to provide timely security to polio vaccination teams in Quetta, the capital city of Balochistan.

"Without security guards, we cannot move our teams in the city," he said.

Security of polio teams have been tightened in the aftermath of attacks at polio team in Quetta and other parts of Balochistan.

Read: Bodies of levies personnel, polio worker found in Zhob

Militants had killed a polio worker and driver of polio team in custody last month in Zhob district of Balochistan.

Up till now, two polio cases have been reported from Killa Abdullah and Chagai districts of Balochistan during the year 2015.

The provincial government of Balochistan has declared an emergency in Quetta and other high-risk districts of the province to eradicate the paralysing disease and for this purpose emergency drives are being launched.

Pakistan's first case of polio virus for the year 2015 was reported from Balochistan's Chagai district on Jan 1.

During the year 2014, a total of 23 polio cases were reported from Balochistan. Most of the cases were reported from Balochistan's Killa Abdullah, Pishin and Quetta districts.

Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world where polio remains endemic, the other two countries being Afghanistan and Nigeria, but efforts to stamp it out have been badly hit in recent years by attacks on immunisation teams.

Also read: The polio pariahs

The World Health Organisation (WHO) had declared that Pakistan is responsible for nearly 80 per cent of polio cases reported globally.

To prevent the possible spread of the polio virus from Pakistan to other countries, the WHO imposed strict travel restrictions on the country.

Also read: Pakistan on crutches

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.

Anti-polio campaigns in Balochistan were suspended and rumours of WHO ending operations had emerged after deadly attack on vaccinators in Quetta in November last year which had claimed the lives of four workers.

Later in December, the Balochistan government had suspended its anti-polio campaign in the province in the aftermath of attacks on polio workers in Karachi and Peshawar.