PESHAWAR: After detection of 14 hot samples of poliovirus acute flaccid paralyses (AFP) from the troubled North Waziristan and its adjoining areas, the National Institute of Health (NIH) laboratory in Islamabad on Wednesday confirmed the latest polio case from Frontier Region Bannu.
With the fresh case, the total number of polio cases detected in the country reached 25, leaving the officers working for anti-polio campaign in a state of high uncertainty.
According to official documents, copy of which is available with ‘The News’, an 18-month-old child identified as Najibullah, son of Gul Qudullah, was diagnosed with the crippling type 1 of poliovirus in FR Bannu, an area under the control of Fata Health Directorate.
Bannu borders North Waziristan, which is virtually run by the militants who have imposed a ban on the polio campaign a year ago as a mark of protest at the US drone attacks.
“The only reason that the case belongs to FR Bannu is due to the geographical position of the child, otherwise, all signs recommend and suggest that the virus from Waziristan has travelled and paralysed the child,” an officer of the Fata Secretariat told The News.
Meanwhile, poor communication strategies and few realistic awareness building steps in the province are having an adverse effect on the mass acceptance of the polio vaccine amongst the parents.
“The Unicef spent millions of US dollars on the advertising campaign of Shahid Afridi in the province but all it did was to create more confusion among the parents due to the powerful negative propaganda and association of the polio drive with CIA-sponsored Dr Shakil Afridi,” stated an official of the Health Department.
According to a recent decision of the provincial government, almost all the components of communications and awareness building have been taken away from UN agencies and are currently being looked at directly by the provincial Health Department.
“We have ordered the establishment of the Provincial Communications Task Committee (PCTC) at the provincial level and from now onwards all the communication-related matters will be dealt directly by the provincial EPI department,” the official disclosed while revealing that one of the key reasons for the decision was to ensure judicious spending of hard earned donors money.
Official documents also suggest that the number of parental refusals has shot up after the targeted attacks on polio teams as the number of refusals recorded in the October 2012 national polio campaign were 47,000 compared to a massive 72,000 during the April national campaign.
During the current year, with the detection of the recent polio case from Bannu, the total number of cases confirmed from Fata has risen to 15.The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has reported six cases, whereas Sindh and Punjab reported three and two cases, respectively. Despite passing through the worst law and order situation, the restive Balochistan province has not reported any case of polio during the current year.