ISLAMABAD: The UN Children's Fund, Unicef, warned on Tuesday that Pakistan stands in the way of global eradication of polio and could potentially be the last reservoir worldwide of the crippling disease.
The agency says 63 cases have been detected so far this year compared to 36 during the same period last year.
Balochistan reported 22 cases this year, more than any other province or region in the country. From five high-risk districts in the province, the virus has now spread to districts not infected over the past five years, including Khuzdar, Nushki and Kohlu.
Fata has reported 20 cases, Sindh 14, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa six, and Gilgit-Baltistan one. No case has been reported in Punjab, with 60 per cent of the country's population, a major accomplishment that must be sustained.
Eradicating polio from Pakistan depends on delivering oral vaccine to each and every child, including the most vulnerable and the hardest-to-reach.
This massive undertaking can succeed but only with the tireless efforts and commitment of the people of Pakistan, Unicef said in a statement.
The next vaccination campaign will be held from Sept 19 to 21 to reach 16.5 million children in high-risk districts.Unicef Regional Director for South Asia Daniel Toole, who is currently in Pakistan to meet senior government and UN officials, has reiterated Unicef's commitment to the eradication of polio.
He has stressed the need for urgently improving local response, vaccination outreach and management and, importantly, accountability for results.
“We must ensure access to all children as specified in the President's National Emergency Action Plan for Polio Eradication in Pakistan. We have a huge task ahead of us, and we must build on lessons learned and act now,” Mr Toole said.
Unicef supported a nationwide immunisation campaign in July. Bivalent Oral Polio Vaccine was administered to 30.65 million under-five children across the country.
Unicef, along with partners in the global polio eradication initiative, including World Health Organisation, Rotary International and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has been actively supporting the government to increase awareness and knowledge about the disease.
The spread of polio in the country also affects Pakistani travellers, particular those going to Saudi Arabia for Haj, who must now show proof of polio vaccination on entry.
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