KARACHI: Only a day after the government assured international donors and partners of renewing efforts to eradicate polio in the country, five new cases — three in Sindh and two in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — were reported on Friday, raising serious concern over resurgence of the virus, officials said.
They said the new cases were reported in Karachi, Shaheed Benazirabad, Jamshoro (Sindh), Bannu and Lakki Marwat (KP). With the confirmation of new cases, a total of 91 children have so far been found with the virus this year alone amid off and on vaccination campaign and the government claims.
“The new cases were reported in children aged between three months and 12 years,” said an official. “In Karachi’s Keamari area a 12-year-old boy was found with the virus while in Sakrand tehsil of Shaheed Benazirabad district a three-year-old girl and another two-and-half-year-old girl in Kotri tehsil of Jamshoro district have been confirmed as new victims of the virus. A three-month-old child in Sarae Naurang tehsil of Lakki Marwat district and a 10-month-old boy in Wazir tehsil of Bannu district are new cases reported in KP.”
New cases surface only a day after international donors, partners were assured of renewed efforts to eradicate the crippling disease
Rana Mohammad Safdar, the newly-appointed national coordinator at the Emergency Operation Centre (EOC), confirmed the five new polio cases and said with the fresh number of polio-affected children, 91 cases had been reported from different areas of the country this year alone.
The fresh cases were reported a day after the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza met Bill Gates at the “Reaching the Last Mile Forum” themed “Accelerating the Pace” in Abu Dhabi and shared Pakistan’s resolve to bring about improvements in routine immunisation, nutrition, reproductive health and family planning.
“First of all it’s a principled decision that we are not going to hide any cases,” said Dr Safdar, who is seen as the pioneer of national EOCs network and instrumental in tackling the explosive polio outbreak in 2014. He is given the credit of reducing polio cases from 306 in 2014 to just eight in 2018.
The Gates Foundation pledged $1.08 billion and, along with other development partner organisations and governments, the meeting got total pledges worth $2.6bn, including $160 million announced by Dr Mirza on behalf of Pakistan to eradicate polio in the world.
Polio remains endemic only in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The number of wild poliovirus cases stood at 77 in Pakistan and at 19 in Afghanistan as of Oct 29 this year. The corresponding figures during the same period last year were six for Pakistan and 19 for Afghanistan. However, the authorities show resolve, again vowing to enhance their efforts.
“We have conveyed to the international donors that we are developing consensus among all provinces to enhance our vaccination campaign with a new strategy. We need to give new confidence to the entire team as we had controlled polio virus in the past and we can do it again.”
Published in Dawn, November 23rd, 2019