PESHAWAR: The Prime Minister’s Polio Monitoring Cell (PM-PMC) ceived another blow with the detection of two new cases on a day from Karachi and South Waziristan as Pakistan cut a sorry face globally by becoming the only country in the world to have reported more polio cases than any other country in the world and also the only country by surpassing the previous year’s polio case tally.
According to official details of the National Institute of Health, polio virology laboratory, a copy of which is available with The News, a one-year-old female child Fatima, daughter of Mehmood Gul, was diagnosed with the crippling poliovirus type 1. She is a resident of Madina Colony, near Sabzi Mandi union council-5, Gadap.
The second polio case is one-year-old male child from South Waziristan Agency, Atifullah, son of Khan Said. The child is a resident of Shaktoi, village Abakhel, Mandu, Tehsil Makin in South Waziristan.
Both the children have received no polio drops due to the refusal of the parents in Karachi and ban on polio immunisation imposed by late Taliban commander Mulla Nazir in South Waziristan and Hafiz Gul Bahadur in North Waziristan as a protest over US drone attacks there.
The detection of the two new polio cases has taken the total number of cases during the year 2013 to a record 85, with Pakistan becoming the only country in the world to have crossed the total number of cases last year.
“Pakistan reported 58 cases last year and is the only country in the world to have shown miserable performance to eradicate polio whereas the two other polio endemic countries—Afghanistan and Nigeria—have shown tremendous improvement by recording a huge decrease in the number of polio cases in comparison to 2012,” said the officer of the Health Department.
Afghanistan recorded 37 cases in 2012 whereas this number was reduced to only 11 during 2013. Similarly, Nigeria showed immense improvement by registering only 55 cases in 2013 in comparison to 122 cases in 2012.
Officials associated with the polio programme argue that the major reason for Pakistan’s sorry state of affairs globally was the inability of the polio teams to vaccinate over 262,000 children in North and South Waziristan due to the ban on polio immunisation by the Taliban by connecting it to the cessation of drone strikes.
“Fata is a federal subject, and it is the sole responsibility of the Prime Minster’s Polio Cell to take appropriate measures to lift the ban imposed by Taliban in North and South Waziristan,” remarked officials of the Health Department.
The officer was of the view that the PM’s Polio Cell had taken no concrete steps to lift the ban on immunisation by the Taliban. “We see the PM’s Polio Cell only talking about issues; however, we are yet to see any concrete steps that the PM’s Polio Cell has taken to ensure Pakistan becomes polio free,” he shared.
The PM Polio Monitoring Cell, whose mandate, jurisdiction and role is still not clear, throws the blame on the Fata authorities for their failure to lift the ban on immunisation.
This year, the country has already infected Palestine and Israel while paralysing 22 children in war-torn Syria. Health experts now fear that the Pakistani poliovirus may also infect Europe due to the massive population movements to Turkey from Syria.
Last week, India became the first country to impose international travel restrictions on Pakistan by stating that no citizen regardless of age would be allowed to enter India without a valid proof of polio vaccination from a WHO certified hospital six weeks prior to the intended travel to India. This travel restriction will be in place from January 30, 2014.