Lahore: A health worker administers polio drops to a child on Monday.—AP
Lahore: A health worker administers polio drops to a child on Monday.—AP

ISLAMABAD: The first nationwide polio campaign of 2019, scheduled for Monday, was postponed completely in 21 districts and partially in 14 districts due to bad weather conditions.

According to a press rele­ase issued by the National Emergency Operation Centre (EOC), Islamabad, the campaign was deferred in 21 districts — one in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, five in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, four in Gilgit-Baltistan, nine in Sindh and one each in Punjab and Islamabad.

According to details shared by the EOC, the districts where the campaign was completely postponed are: Chitral in KP; Bagh, Poonch, Sadnuti, Haveli and Neelam in AJK; Astore, Ghizer, Hu­­nza and Nagar in GB; Shik­arpur, Naushahro Feroze, Mirpurkhas, Shaheed Bena­zirabad, Qambar, Jacob­abad, Matiari, Hyderabad and Tando Allahyar in Sindh; Rawalpindi in Punjab, and Islamabad.

The campaign was partially postponed in 14 districts. They are: Mansehra, Abbott­abad, Upper Dir, Swat and Lakki Marwat in KP; Jhelum Valley in AJK; Sohbat Pur in Balochistan; Skardu in GB; and Sanghar, Thatta, Badin, Kashmore, Sukkur and Umerkot in Sindh.

EOC coordinator Dr Rana Mohammad Safdar has commended the commitment of frontline workers to brave all odds and reach maximum number of children in this critical national campaign.

“The National EOC in coordination with provinces and districts is tracking progress of the campaign across the country. The door-to-door vaccination campaign in all deferred districts will be conducted as soon as weather improves,” he said.

An official of the polio eradication programme, requesting not to be quoted, said that it was unfortunate that the campaign had been launched despite having forecast of rain and snowfall.

It is pertinent to mention that polio is a highly infectious disease caused by poliovirus mainly affecting children under the age of five. It invades the nervous system and can cause paralysis or even death. While there is no cure for polio, vaccination is the most effective way to protect children from this crippling disease.

Each time a child under the age of five is vaccinated, their protection against the virus is increased. Repeated immunisations have protected millions of children from polio, allowing almost all countries in the world to become polio free.

In 2018, as many as 12 cases of wild poliovirus were reported in the country — three from Duki district in Balochistan, one from Charsadda, one from Lakki Marwat in KP, one from Gadap, Karachi, one from Khyber and five cases from Bajaur tribal district of KP.

This indicates an overall 97 per cent decrease in the number of annual polio cases from the highs of 306 reported in 2014.

Despite this significant achievement, poliovirus has been able to find a way for its survival. During the month of December, sewage water samples collected from Karachi, Peshawar, Bannu, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Qilla Abdullah, Pishin and Quetta tested positive for poliovirus.

Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2019