Unicef has created immense confusion amongst the polio eradication partners, including the Pakistan government and the WHO, by declaring that the number of reported polio cases in Pakistan during the current year is 52. The Pakistan government and WHO officials say the number is 15.
“Fifty-two cases of polio have been reported so far in Pakistan this year, most of them from Sindh (Karachi), Balochistan (Quetta area), or security-compromised districts of North West Frontier Province (NWFP, now known as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa),” says the Unicef website.
On the other hand, the government’s Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) and WHO officials insist that the number of polio cases reported till March 31 is 15 and not 52 as reported by the Unicef on its website. “So far 15 polio cases have been reported from entire Pakistan including the country’s tribal areas. The Unicef’s figure is totally wrong and incorrect,” National Program Manager of EPI Altaf Bosan told The News.
Commenting on the polio cases reported on Unicef website, he observed that perhaps the Unicef people were presenting last year or even 2010’s data and termed it deplorable.
Even the chief of polio eradication team in Pakistan, Dennis King, acknowledged the mistake, saying, it was a “grave mistake” and promised to update the current data on the agency’s website by Monday next.
“I can confirm that only 15 cases of polio have been reported in Pakistan, which is less than the number of polio cases during the corresponding period of last year. I thank you (The News) for pointing out the mistake on our website and hopefully it would be corrected on the next working day,” he added.
Talking to The News, an official of the Sindh Health Department said it was stunning that one of the leading partners of polio eradication campaign in the country was not even aware of the total number of polio cases in the country, “which speaks heaps about the state of polio eradication drive in the country”.
The total number of polio cases during the current year stood at 15, he confirmed.
According the official website of Unicef, India is nearly polio free. “Progress has been made by coordinated efforts to increase the percentage of children fewer than five immunized. By the end of last year, 33 out of India’s 35 states were polio free with only 32 cases reported so far in 2010,” it states discussing the Indian Polio Programme.
The website also sheds light on the efforts of Afghanistan and Nigeria in terms of their efforts towards polio eradication but when it comes to Pakistan, the website states that Pakistan has reported 52 polio cases.
During the recently held polio campaign, Unicef had also committed a blunder when millions of rupees were pumped into the polio eradication mass media campaign without cross checking with the Sindh government about the actual campaign dates.