Polio drops being administered to a child in Karachi. – File photo by APP
Polio drops being administered to a child in Karachi. — File photo by APP

PESHAWAR, Sept 4: The government vaccinated children in inaccessible areas of Tirah for the first time during the last four years with the help of Ansarul Islam, a banned outfit in Khyber Agency, officials said.

They said that cooperation by Ansarul Islam led to vaccination of children in 95 per cent area of Tirah. “It is a major breakthrough as many efforts to vaccinate children in the Taliban-controlled areas had failed,” officials told Dawn, crediting the vaccinators and Ansarul Islam for protecting 32,641 children against polio.

They said that 11,626 children also got vaccine against measles while another 3,889 newborns and below the age of one month were vaccinated to safeguard them from five ailments. The vaccinators covered those children on Monday and Tuesday, they said.

“Ansarul Islam and religious leaders attached to the group understand that the poliovirus can cause life long disability so they are ready to support the initiative,” said officials.  Only four families refused to vaccinate their children, however, efforts were afoot to convince them, they said.

The officials said that they covered 95 per cent children in Tirah valley of Bara tehsil. “Ansarul Islam played a vital role in countering community refusals,” they added.

In Bara, 50 per cent children had not been administered oral polio vaccine (OPV) since October 2009 owing to the ongoing military operation against militants. A new strategy to reach the inaccessible children in Federally Administered Tribal Areas was adopted that showed results, officials added.

“We worked in collaboration with scouts and carried out door-to-door visit with the help of local vaccinators,” they said.

Dr Aftab Akbar Durrani, secretary social sector Fata, told Dawn that aggressive efforts were underway to ensure immunisation of 900,000 target children. “We are administering OPV to displaced children of Waziristan in the adjacent districts of Bannu, Tank and Dera Ismail Khan where they live in rented houses or with their relatives,” he added.

Dr Durrani said that more than 165,000 children in different parts of Khyber Agency had remained unimmunised against polio since September 2009. He said that more than 25,000 displaced children from Orakzai Agency had been vaccinated in the nearby Hangu district.“Displacement has been proving a blessing in disguise for the displaced children, who are getting protection against eight childhood vaccine-preventable ailments through immunisation,” Dr Durrani said.

In Jalozai, about 50,000 children, who had remained unvaccinated for four years, had been given vaccine, he said.

“We have planned three campaigns in Sept in Fata that will be carried out in three phases,” he said. The first-three day campaign was launched on Sept 3, the second will take place on Sept 10 and the last one on Sept 19 during which all the target children will be vaccinated.