PESHAWAR: Lack of focus on Peshawar district may hinder the provincial government’s plan of eradicating poliovirus by middle of the year.
After failure to meet the target of making the province polio-free by end of 2016, as outlined in National Emergency Action Plan (NEAP) for polio eradication 2016-17, there is still determination on the part of provincial government to continue efforts but non-existence of full-time deputy commissioner and district health officer in Peshawar may hamper materialisation of the new plan.
The province banks on the support of the district administration because of its role in the success obtained last year with regard to reduction of polio cases.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which recorded eight polio cases in 2016, 17 in 2015 and 68 in 2014 due to fully administrative support to the campaign, may put the previous progress into reverse gear if government fails to focus on Peshawar. Peshawar had recorded six polio cases in 2015 and 29 in 2014.
However, Peshawar district wouldn’t get the desired attention owing to non-existence of permanent deputy commissioner and district health officer.
Absence of fulltime DC and DHO major hurdle to success of drive
It may beset the plan as deputy commissioner lends administrative support to anti-polio drive with regard to law and order and security of health workers while DHO is responsible to spearhead the campaign in the district, which has been declared as core polio reservoir by World Health Organisation, along with Karachi and Quetta Block, last year.
Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which recorded only one polio case in 2016, is the focus of attention at the national and international level because of circulation of virus in water. Environmental samples have been positive from Shaheen Muslim Town for the past 18 months and Larama since December, two sites from which WHO tests sewerage water every month in Peshawar.
On January 9, provincial chief secretary asked commissioners and deputy commissioners to ensure that all resources were fully utilised to eradicate poliovirus from the province by May.
A letter sent to them, pointed out that their efforts had paid off in the past couple of years as positivity of environmental samples was reduced by 12 per cent and the province hadn’t recorded any polio case after the month of October. “We need to continue the effort to achieve the target,” it said.
The chief secretary has also directed involvement of more female workers to ensure vaccination of children in houses and all structures at divisional, district and union council level. “The area in-charge should visit their teams at least twice a day in every campaign to ensure quality vaccination,” said the letter.
It said that the targets set forth in NEAP should be met in every campaign and each of the drives should be inaugurated by prominent people to create demand for vaccination.
Pakistan, which recorded only 20 cases in 2016, lesser than its two decades long polio eradication history, cannot afford any laxity to sustain the gains. The country, which tested only 27 children positive for the crippling ailment in 2005, had claimed that it was on verge of eliminating the virus but later the situation became worse and the cases continue to surge because of discontinuity of the efforts.
Published in Dawn January 16th, 2017