Polio persists in Pakistan despite immunisation efforts


ISLAMABAD – Pakistan remains one of the four countries along with India, Afghanistan, and Nigeria, where Polio is endemic despite aggressive vaccination campaigns by the government since 1993 for its eradication.
Health officials confirm that Pakistan is the only country where more Polio cases were recorded in 2010, increasing from 89 recorded in 2009 to 144 in 2010.
While many reasons may be cited behind persistence of Polio in Pakistan like inadequate immunisation coverage remains the primary cause that may leave many children out of the vaccination loop. This was stated in data collected by FAFEN (a network of civil society organisations) from EDO Health Offices in 76 districts across Pakistan in November 2010.
In addition to alarming number of maternal, infant and child mortality, a large number of Respiratory Tract Infections (RTIs), gastro and skin infections were also reported during November, says FAFEN’s Health Scan report, launched here on Monday. Besides Polio, Tuberculosis remains another disturbing disease with 28,128 confirmed and suspected cases being reported at government-run healthcare facilities in 76 districts across Pakistan only during November 2010.
A majority of TB cases were recorded in Punjab, with the highest number of 5,918 reported in Rahim yar Khan District. It is important to note that according to the draft of the National Health Policy 2009, Pakistan is ranked sixth among the 22 high burden TB countries of the world. In November 2010, 53 per cent of all 1,767,722 reported cases of diseases documented at state-run healthcare facilities, as calculated in 76 districts countrywide, were due to Respiratory Tract Infections (RTIs). Gastrointestinal Infections constituted 20 per cent of the total cases of diseases in November.
These were categorized into Diarrhea and Dysentery (taken together), and Gastroenteritis. Skin Diseases (Scabies) made 13 per cent of all reported cases of diseases in November. In this regard, Sindh was the most disease concentrated, with 115,599 cases observed out of a total 193,104 reported cases of Scabies. Overall, 2,664 cases of Hepatitis were reported from Punjab. Sindh region was the most affected by Malaria, as 113,381 cases out of a total 180,580 were reported in 20 districts monitored in Sindh.
The high number of cases of Malaria can be attributed in part to the unhygienic and unsanitary living conditions prevailing due to the recent floods. No case of suspected HIV/AIDS was reported in any part of the country. It merits investigation as to whether this is due to under reporting, since according to the draft of the National Health Policy 2009, evidence indicates increasing prevalence of HIV among certain sections of society, like Injecting Drug Users, making it a concentrated epidemic.
The district of Rahim Yar Khan (Punjab) followed by Gujranwala (Punjab), Kasur (Punjab), Khairpur (Sindh), and Lahore (Punjab) were observed to be the most disease concentrated in November, 2010.