ISLAMABAD, Aug 29: The Senate was told on Friday that Sindh, Northern Areas and Fata had became virtual nurseries of polio posing a serious threat to the country.

Holding local governments responsible for the failure of polio eradication programme, Minis-ter for Health Sherry Rehman said during the question hour that vaccines became ineffective because immunisation teams did not keep them at the required temperature.

She said that lack of checks along the border with Afghanistan also contributed to a dramatic increase in polio cases.

She said the number of polio cases had risen to 41 while it stood at only four after Benazir Bhutto launched a comprehensive programme in 1996.

International agencies, she said, had donated Rs132.962 million for polio eradication during 2006-08 and the entire amount had been spent.

She said the Sindh health department was activated to some extent after polio cases were found in the province, particularly in Karachi.

“The World Health Organisation is also supporting us in polio immunisation process, but it also has concerns regarding the poor delivery system that can only be improved if the accountability mechanism is introduced,” she said.

About the immunisation campaign in Fata and Northern Areas, she said some extremist elements were dissuading people from getting their children vaccinated saying it would cause impotence.

“Extremists are using different communication methods to propagate their ideas, including illegal FM radio stations. I have talked to ISPR as such elements are not only challenging the writ of the government but also impeding health programmes,” she said.

Ms Rehman said that about 33 million children had been immunised and a lot was yet to be done.

She said that hepatitis C was on the rise in the country with seven per cent of the population threatened by the disease.

She said the previous government had planned to launch a Rs2.5 billion programme the PC-1 of the project carried some serious flaws.

She said the government was preparing a new programme which would be sent to the prime minister next week.

She said the government would launch mobile health units in 23 poverty-stricken districts within four years for examination and vaccination of hepatitis and other diseases.

“A massive plan will be required to address the curative aspect of the disease that may be beyond the national budget of the country.

For the preventive aspect, the government has launched awareness campaigns for parents, jail staff, hair-dressers, sex workers and doctors.

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