PESHAWAR: The water in Peshawar, one of the polio reservoirs as declared by the World Health Organisation, is free of polio virus, now.
The development comes as the environmental water samples taken from Shaheen Muslim Town in Peshawar have tested negative for polio virus for the first time since November last year mainly due to quality vaccination campaigns, say Islamabad-based health experts.
According to the experts, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa health department collects samples from sewerage water from three sites located at Shaheen Muslim Town, Larama and Dhando Pul areas to examine presence of polio virus.
Water samples from Shaheen Muslim Town test negative for virus for first time since November last
The May sample’s results suggested that there was no virus in water taken from Shaheen Muslim Town.
The two other sites have already been testing negative for polio virus.
The experts told Dawn that Shaheen Muslim Town was a major source of worry for the authorities engaged in the polio eradication efforts in the province.
They said Peshawar, which had recorded one of the total six cases detected in the province this year, than 10 in corresponding period last year, was one of the high-risk districts as it received migrant children from Fata as well as Afghanistan on daily basis.
The experts said the negativity of the environmental sample was a marked success by the province, considering the population movement from areas in Afghanistan, where the virus was in full circulation.
They said the sample report, which had yet to be formally released by the department, was the result of the past few effective campaigns in Peshawar, which also served as transit point for more 10,000 children visiting it from other districts every day.
The experts said the Shaheen Muslim Town water testing negative for polio virus had also confirmed that around 20 union councils were safe as polio virus was non-existent in both, the people and water.
They said water samples from as many UCs had long been free from virus in the city located near Fata.
The experts said vaccinators in 15 districts of the province had administered injectable polio vaccine to 170,000 Afghan refugees living in camps as they frequently visited their native country and brought virus to local children from there.
According to them, both KP and Afghanistan have been transporting polio virus to each other for the last few years and therefore, many children have gotten infected.
The IPV doses to Afghan children are meant to strengthen their immunity against polio especially during their visit to polio-endemic areas in Afghanistan with parents.
The experts declared the development a major breakthrough in the country’s anti-polio efforts but said the health department needed sustained efforts to further improve performance on the polio eradication front.
They said the refugee children were continuously given oral polio vaccine in every campaign by the health department, which covered around 5.4 million children under the age of five years.
The experts said the only effective way for polio’s eradication from parts of Afghanistan, Khyber Agency and Peshawar, the regional epidemiological block hampering the worldwide polio eradication efforts, was to carry out vaccination drives covering all children, who remained missed or weren’t immunised due to their parents’ refusal.
They said polio had been eradicated from the entire world except Pakistan and Afghanistan with the help of the same technique.
Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2016