Persistent scourge

Published May 28, 2024

THE challenge of polio in Pakistan has reached a new nadir, drawing grave concerns from the Technical Advisory Group for polio eradication. In a recent meeting held in Qatar, the group highlighted the alarming resurgence of the virus in Pakistan, a setback that places us in a position worse than even war-ravaged Afghanistan. It has come to be so that polio is not only a national health crisis but an international embarrassment. Travel restrictions imposed on Pakistani citizens are a clear indicator of the global community’s scepticism with Pakistan’s public health framework. Certification for polio vaccination is mandatory, yet many destinations still administer polio drops upon arrival, reflecting distrust. Despite extensive eradication efforts, we have now reported this year’s third polio case, with all three victims originating from Balochistan. The latest is a 12-year-old girl from Killa Abdullah, a district that had remained polio free for three years. Compounding this tragedy, three additional environmental samples have tested positive, bringing the total to 140 for the year.

Polio’s unyielding presence in Pakistan is fuelled by a combination of factors: inadequate vaccination coverage, the targeting of polio workers in conflict-prone areas, and, most unfortunately, a general mistrust of vaccines. These obstacles have turned Karachi, Quetta, and Peshawar into reservoirs of the virus, posing a constant threat to vulnerable children. Addressing this crisis requires a well-thought-out approach. The government must ensure community engagement to address this challenge. Public awareness drives should stress the importance of drops and counter disinformation. Religious leaders must be enlisted to foster trust and encourage participation in vaccination drives. Militancy must also be rooted out. Equally crucial are the availability and accessibility of vaccines, particularly in high-risk areas and the strengthening of surveillance systems to promptly respond to outbreaks. The path to a polio-free Pakistan is not insurmountable. With a collaborative effort, we can overcome this scourge for all generations to come.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2024

Opinion

Editorial

Kindness needed
Updated 20 Jun, 2024

Kindness needed

This year’s World Refugee Day theme — solidarity with refugees — includes keeping our borders accessible and addressing the hurdles they face.
Fitch’s budget note
20 Jun, 2024

Fitch’s budget note

PAKISTAN’S ongoing economic crisis is multifaceted. At one end, the government must pursue stabilisation policies...
Cruelty to animals
20 Jun, 2024

Cruelty to animals

TWO recent incidents illustrate the immense cruelty many in this country subject voiceless animals to. In the first...
Price bombs
Updated 18 Jun, 2024

Price bombs

It just wants to take the easy route and enjoy the ride for however long it is in power.
Palestine’s plight
Updated 17 Jun, 2024

Palestine’s plight

While the faithful across the world are celebrating with their families, thousands of Palestinian children have either been orphaned, or themselves been killed by the Israeli aggressors.
Profiting off denied visas
Updated 19 Jun, 2024

Profiting off denied visas

The staggering rejection rates underscore systemic biases in the largely non-transparent visa approval process.