Sunday, April 27, 2014
From Print Edition
The decision to invite the army to provide security to polio vaccination teams in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is a step in the right direction. The rising number of polio cases in Pakistan has taken on an international dimension necessitating prompt action. Pakistan is among the three countries in the world where polio has still not been eradicated. This might lead some countries to impose travel restrictions on Pakistanis to prevent the spread of the disease. Most of our Southeast Asian neighbours, including India, have managed to wipe out the disease from their populations through consistent efforts. Pakistan, too, was close to achieving this target but polio workers have come under repeated attacks by militants, severely undermining efforts to eradicate polio from the country. Scores of polio workers and police personnel accompanying them have been killed in targeted attacks.
A number of polio cases have been reported in different parts of Pakistan during the past year, leading WHO to project that Pakistan will not be polio-free any time soon. It is hoped the army can devise a security strategy for KP, which includes intelligence gathering, to avert possible attacks during the upcoming vaccination drive there. The security plan should particularly target areas where security threats prevented health authorities from conducting scheduled vaccination drives. Fata is an area where the risk of this crippling disease spreading is particularly high and where a number of polio cases have already been reported. It is encouraging that PTI leader Imran Khan, whose party is currently governing KP, has shown personal interest in making the anti-polio campaign a success. The PTI government should make the best of this opportunity to ensure that each and every child receives the vaccine.