LAHORE: The Punjab government has left 294,000 children unvaccinated across the province during the last month anti-polio drive, posing a serious threat to the health of the kids living in the surroundings of the ‘still missed children’.

The provincial capital was at the top among other cities where 3.3 per cent of the total ‘still missed children’ were left unvaccinated, followed by Rahim Yar Khan 2.6pc and Rawalpindi 2.4pc. Similarly, Multan, Faisalabad and Sheikhpura were other cities where the missed children’s percentage was recorded 2.1, 1.9 and 1.7, respectively.

It was unveiled in an assessment report of the health department on the last National Immunisation Drive (NID) carried out in October across the province, leaving the global health bodies stunned.

According to the report, Punjab was to access 22.5 million target population of the under five-year children (a copy of the report is also available with Dawn).

Over 100,000 teams of the health workers were constituted and dispatched to their respective areas to immunise the target kids.It is worth to mention here that last year (in 2022), the Punjab government had missed 140,440 children for polio vaccine showing nonseriousness of the health authorities towards an initiative launched by the global health bodies funding and leading the drives internationally.

The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) had set a target for Pakistan and Afghanistan to interrupt the polio virus circulation by the end of 2023. The IMB seemed to be worried that the reservoirs of the polio virus reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had been detected in Lahore and other parts of Punjab, declaring it an alarming sign to eliminate the crippling disease from Pakistan.

The report unveiled that out of the total target population, the Punjab government misssed 3.2 million children (14.6pc of the target population) during October NID across the province.

The health authorities dispatched teams which revisited the poorly covered areas of Punjab and vaccinated 1.7 million ‘missed children’ which constituted 54pc of the total missed population.

The catch-up campaigns were also launched when the global health bodies continued to express serious concerns over poor coverage to a large population of the kids in Punjab. In the catch-up drives, the health teams covered for polio vaccine 1.2 million (37pc) more ‘missed kids’ out of the 1.7 million leftover children.

The report further exposed the provincial government saying that according to the assessment report there were a total of 269 localities which were marked by the experts as ‘poorly covered areas’.

Of them they identified 63 areas in Lahore which constituted 23pc (63 poorly covered areas) of the total localities, showing the scale of the indifference of the authorities concerned towards the provincial capital which was housing too many admin offices to oversee the anti-polio drive.

After Lahore, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rawalpindi and Faisalabad marked most of the poorly covered areas for vaccination to the children, according to the report.

Similarly, the report marked total 83 missed areas in Punjab where no polio team reached to vaccinate the children in October. Of them, the provincial capital again topped by reporting 16 ‘missed areas’, followed by 15 in DG Khan and six each in Rawalpindi and Faisalabad.

An official said the IMB had warned the Punjab government last year that the missed children were a big threat to the efforts for anti-polio activities in the province particularly and Pakistan in general.

He said Lahore was continuously reporting environmental sample positive.

“If wild poliovirus transmission is to be stopped in Pakistan, the remarkable recent achievement of clearing long-established poliovirus reservoirs and sanctuaries in the country must also stand the test of time,” reads the IMB report.

Published in Dawn, November 11th, 2023

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