PESHAWAR: Pakistan and Afghanistan, the two last remaining polio-endemic countries, have been hampering the global eradication efforts due to lack of high quality vaccination, administrative problems and non-availability of vaccination at the border points, according to sources.
Both the countries led the worldwide tally of 70 cases in 2015, with most cases coming from one epidemiological block formed by Peshawar and Khyber Agency in Pakistan and Nangarhar in Afghanistan reported most of the cases.
Peshawar registered 10 polio cases of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s total 18 in 2015 mainly because of free and unchecked movements of children from Afghanistan as well as Federally Administered Tribal Areas, according to experts.
Lack of mechanism to monitor the population movement from Afghanistan to and from Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, remained a tumbling block to control circulation of poliovirus in both the neighbouring countries, they added.
Cases with genetic sequencing with Fata or Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had been diagnosed positive for polio in Afghanistan last year. Peshawar recorded two polio cases with proven linkages to virus in Afghanistan.
However, experts said that both the countries had resolved to take coordinated efforts to do away with the virus. Fata, located between Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, had alone recorded 16 polio cases, the highest of the nationwide recorded polio count in Pakistan by any province.
Lack of quality vaccination, administrative issues and non-availability of vaccine at border points are main problems
Experts said that synchronised campaigns have been launched in Pakistan and Afghanistan from January to cope with the situation during which special focus is being laid on strengthening border vaccination.
The quality of vaccination at Torkham, the main border point crossed by hundreds of children per day, wasn’t up to desired level due to which infected children transported the virus across the border, they said.
The samples taken from sewerage water in Peshawar emerged positive for poliovirus in November and December after testing negative for the previous many months. It shows that the virus is in circulation. Both the countries have children, who could not be accessed by the vaccinators owing to security reasons and refusal by their parents.
Experts said that the virus was cornered and it required full-scale administrative and political support at international level to tackle polio problem totally as child health medical issue and tackle it the soonest. In the past, geo-political situation hampered polio-related efforts and infected countries required extra political support to resolve the intentional health issue, they said.
They said that GPEI should prevail upon the governments that virus had no boundaries and only better vaccination was needed to eradicate the crippling childhood ailment.
The Independent Monitoring Board of PEI in its recent report termed the region “conveyor belt of polio transmission” and recommended geographical arrangements to improve coordination to face challenges in the region. The global advisory body said that both the countries required extra efforts, experts said.
Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2016