- IMB asks a valid question
The Independent Monitoring BOARD (IMB) for polio, in its latest six-monthly report, has asked pertinently why Pakistan has been unable to eradicate polio while it has been so successful in tackling covid-19. The IMB said that Health Services SAPM Dr Faisal Sultan had expressed a firm commitment to eradication, but the fact of the matter is that the recent resurgence in cases in the last three years predates the covid-19 pandemic, and coincides with the PTI coming to office.
The PTI’s first focal person on polio eradication treated the task casually, with the result that all of the effort of eliminating polio went to waste. As the IMB noted, the danger has emerged of Iran being re-infected, as poliovirus has once again been found there in sewage. That indicates that the danger will not be eliminated until the disease is eradicated. The PTI seems to lack commitment in this direction, with the Prime Minister seeming to assume that the focal person’s position was meant for political appointees who wished to do no work.
It is a matter of shame for Pakistan that it is still one of those two countries left in the world where polio still occurs, the other being Afghanistan, with travel restrictions because of this having been imposed since 2014. It is perhaps of even greater concern that the virus is moving from Pakistan into other countries. The previous government showed a much greater commitment in bringing down the number of infections.
On the other hand, the present government has shown callousness or incompetence, or both. There is an element of corruption as well in this failure, as Pakistan has received got $1.16 billion from the IMB since 2106 till now. If the corrupt PML(N) government could make progress, that means there were at least some funds being properly used. However, now that the cases are going up under the PTI, is it to be assumed that the money is now being embezzled? The government needs to turn more attention to the polio problem, which is already showing signs of getting out of hand because of neglect.