Pakistan could become world’s last polio reservoir, UNICEF warns


The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned on Monday that Pakistan was facing a serious risk of being the last polio reservoir in the world, as the number of polio cases in the country rose to 132. In a press release issued on the World Polio Day, UNICEF called for accelerated eradication efforts across the globe.
It said that despite serious eradication efforts since the beginning of the year, Pakistan continued to see rising numbers of polio cases. According to UNICEF, Balochistan had the highest number of polio-hit children, 54, FATA, 37, Sindh, 27, Khyber Pukhtunkhawa, 11, Punjab, 02 and Gilgit-Baltistan, 01.
“We must remember that behind every number there is the face of a child and a devastated family” said Dan Rohrmann, UNICEF representative in Pakistan. “We must end polio now and ensure access to all children with polio vaccinations as specified in the President’s National Emergency Action Plan for Polio Eradication in Pakistan. We have a huge task ahead of us, and time is up as we are soon entering the low transmission season and where all eradication efforts have to be perfectly synchronised. We must act now,” Rohrmann said.
World Health Organisation (WHO) Representative in Pakistan Dr Guido Sabatinelli highlighted the significance of giving polio vaccines to every child. “Eradicating polio from Pakistan depends on delivering oral polio vaccine to each and every child, including the most vulnerable and the hardest-to-reach at Union Council level. This massive undertaking can succeed, but only with the continued commitment of the government, partners and the people of Pakistan,” the WHO representative said.
The next polio vaccination campaign is being launched today (Tuesday) and it would target 33 million children across the country. UNICEF and WHO are working closely with provincial governments to deploy up to 800 additional staff in the 33 high-risk districts that represent a reservoir of polio virus. In addition, networks of non-government organisations, along with religious and civic groups, are working to mobilise community support for polio vaccinations in the targeted communities.