Rise in polio cases raise questions over performance of staff

January 20,2019

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PESHAWAR: The recent rise in polio cases in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has put a question mark on the performance of national and international staff engaged in the fight against polio disease in the region.

Interestingly, well-placed sources told The News that samples of the two children who tested positive were collected in January 2019, but the authorities concerned in order to avoid any new polio case in the beginning of new year put them in the previous year. The authorities claimed to have received samples of the two latest polio cases in the last week of December 2018, which according to senior officials isn’t true.

A senior official said the government was expected to order a high-level inquiry in this regard as the local authorities had kept it secret from high-ups in Peshawar and Islamabad that they were facing resistance from a local community in the Bajaur tribal district.

“One thing is quite obvious. If the child onset date is December 31, it means the child was taken to the doctor the same day and then the doctor concerned notified it the same day which is very rare and I don’t believe it,” said an official of World Health Organisation (WHO) in Peshawar on condition of anonymity.

With the two new cases, the number of polio victims in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has reached eight in 2018. “A very dirty game is going on in the polio programme in KP in general and in the seven tribal districts in particular where no one had ever bothered to check work of the people engaged in polio programme,” an official of the Health Department said.

He said millions of rupees were being spent every month on month-wise campaign against polio but they couldn’t eliminate poliovirus from Peshawar. “In the rest of Pakistan, a three-day anti-polio campaign is conducted once a month but in Peshawar, community health workers perform duty throughout the month to reach each and every child. Millions of rupees are being spent but still the virus is circulating there. Let me assure you that they are not willing to eradicate polio from Peshawar because if the virus is eradicated what would they do,” opined the government official.

The two fresh polio cases were reported from Bajaur tribal district. According to officials of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Health Department, the 78-month old female child was not given any polio vaccine during the routine immunisation in Bajaur.

She was resident of Jaba Manzai, union council Tali in Bajaur’s Salarzai subdivision. The child is stated to have been taken to the doctor on December 31 and then notified on January 7, 2019, and the officials concerned deliberately mentioned its onset date on December 31 to avoid the new polio case in the first week of January 2019.

According to clinical history of the patient, she had developed high grade fever, head ache and pain when taken to the doctor. The child was given oral medications comprising of antipyretics and antibiotics without making any consultation with HCP.

As the child did not improve parents consulted local paediatrician Dr Liaqat Ali who notified the case and admitted the child in AHQ Khar for further investigation as AFP. According to officials, routine immunisation is stated to be very poor in the area due to lack of proper surveillance.

The family is reportedly poor and doesn’t have access to toilet and practicing open defecation and using drinking water from a nearby stream. The second case also reported from Bajaur.

The authorities concerned reportedly collected his stools in January 2019 but put it the previous year to cover up their inefficiency and avoid inquiries. The child, who was diagnosed with polio, is 36-months old boy. He is the resident of Jaba Manzai village of Tali union council in Salarzai subdivision of Bajaur tribal district.

As per official record, the child was first reported to the doctors on December 29, 2018 and then notified on January 8, 2019 for investigations that began on January 9.He also didn’t get vaccine during routine immunisation.

As per his clinical history, the child developed high grade fever, cough and diarrhoea followed by weakness of right leg on December 29.

The child remained under treatment of Dr Naseeb and was then taken to Dr Liaqat Ali when he didn’t improve. Dr. Liaqat Ali notified the case as AFP. He is living in the same Tali union council of Salarzai subdivision having the 10th positive WPV case of 2018.

In an official statement, it reported that essential immunisation is quite poor in the area. The child’s family is stated to be poor. It doesn’t have access to toilet at home and is practicing open defecation and relying on spring water for drinking purposes. Before these two cases, two similar polio cases were reported from KP last week.

One was reported from Bajaur a day after a case was emerged in Lakki Marwat district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In the particular case reported from Bajaur, government officials suspected that it happened in 2019 as in the documents local authorities in Bajaur claimed to have collected his samples on December 27 last year to check the presence of polio virus.

However, they insisted it was deliberately done to avoid new case in 2019. So far, five polio cases have been reported from Bajaur and one each from Charsadda, Lakki Marwat and Khyber tribal district.


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