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PML-N, ruling party lawmakers trade barbs over rising polio cases

Updated May 10, 2019

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Only eight cases were reported in 2017 but so far this year 13 cases have surfaced across Pakistan.
Only eight cases were reported in 2017 but so far this year 13 cases have surfaced across Pakistan.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) lawmakers traded barbs during the National Assembly session on Thursday over the increasing number of polio cases across the country.

The house was discussing a calling attention notice regarding the increase in the number of polio cases due to the rise in refusal rate to administer polio drops to children.

The notice was signed by PML-N’s Dr Samina Matloob, Dr Nisar Ahmed Cheema, Zahra Wadood Fatehmi, Shahnaz Saleem Malik and Kesoo Mal Kheeal Das and moved by Dr Samina Matloob.

Only eight cases were reported in 2017 but so far this year 13 cases have surfaced across Pakistan, calling attention notice says

Parliamentary Secretary Dr Nausheen Hamid said though it was correct that there was an increase in the number of polio cases the crippling disease had never been eradicated in Pakistan as its virus remained in sewage.

“We have been vaccinating around 38 million children during immunisation campaigns. However, I suggest that it should not be made a political issue,” she said.

However, Dr Matloob said only eight cases of polio were reported in 2017 and the polio programme was determined to eradicate the virus by 2019 but now Pakistan has been pushed back to the situation of 2012.

“Unfortunately, the current government has failed to control the virus. The house should be informed what kind of efforts are being made at the federal, provincial and district levels,” she said.

Dr Hamid again said even Independent Mentoring Board, which works on behalf of donor agencies, had said in 2017 that poliovirus could not be eradicated from Pakistan.

She said Prime Minster Imran Khan had taken up the issue seriously and was pushing to eradicate the poliovirus.

“On social media a campaign is going on against the programme but we are trying to remove the material from Facebook and other social media,” she said.

Dr Nisar said it was unfortunate that the virus was found only in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He suggested that the speaker National Assembly should call a meeting in his chamber to address the issue.

Zahra Fatehmi said it was a fact that polio had been controlled during the tenure of the previous government but it again raised its head during the current government. She suggested improving the monitoring system of the vaccine.

However, Dr Hamid said history showed that the number of polio cases increased whenever a government was changed. She said the government had been focusing on the border areas and every person coming from Afghanistan was vaccinated.

Since Jan 2019, as many as 13 polio cases have been reported across the country compared to 12 cases in the whole year of 2018.

Published in Dawn, May 10th, 2019