LANDI KOTAL: The unvaccinated children in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are continuously creating challenges for the global initiative for polio eradication. The National Institute of Health, Islamabad has recently confirmed 3 new polio cases in Khyber Agency, while several other cases were detected over the past couple of weeks, in other parts of the country too.
After the detection of these new cases, the current year’s nationwide polio count has reached almost 100 new patients. Last year, the total number of detected polio cases were 93.
Out of the 100 new patients found this year; Fata has recorded 69 cases, including 55 from North Waziristan Agency, seven from Khyber Agency, five from South Waziristan Agency and two from Frontier Region of Bannu. Fata is directly governed by the federal government while vaccination hasn’t been carried out in Waziristan since June 2012.
The vaccination campaigns in Khyber Agency have also been poor owing to threats by militants. It was difficult for health workers in tribal areas to vaccinate children against polio and invite the wrath of Taliban, sources said.
The provincially controlled regions of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have recorded 15 cases, including five from Peshawar, nine from Bannu and one from Mardan. Sindh has recorded seven cases, all from Karachi.
Over the past few years, Pakistan has recorded highest number of polio cases among the three endemic countries.
According to reports; All the three newly-infected children are the residents of the violence-wracked Bara subdivision of Khyber Agency, where health authorities claim to have carried out vaccination campaigns a month ago. Officials say that they had conducted door-to-door drives there in the past one month.
Contrary to official claim of vaccinating thousands of children in four phases, none of the new polio victims was administered oral polio vaccine.
The new polio victims were identified as 60-month-old Sumbal, a resident of Akkakhel Mera; one-year-old Samran, a resident of Akkakhel; and 18-month-old Ibrahim, a resident of Meelwat area.
Financed by the government of United Arab Emirates, the local political administration had constituted 137 health teams with tight security provided by the army, Frontier Corps and Khasadar and Levies forces to vaccinate children in Bara. But despite official claims about a successful and peaceful culmination of the four phases of vaccination campaign, the exercise was not a smooth sailing for both the health workers and security forces.
Local sources said that militants on two occasions interrupted the drive in Baz Garha and Alam Gudar localities that deprived hundreds of children of anti-polio drops. The residents of Sheen Qamar also complained that health worker didn’t conduct door-to-door campaign in their locality properly.
In Akkakhel, a number of parents refused to vaccinate their children for fear of militants’ threats. They said that activists of the ban groups would come to their homes after the health teams and security forces would leave and they would inquire about who had vaccinated their children