The irony is that the uncle of Pakistan’s latest polio victim was himself actually a local manager of the anti-polio vaccination campaign in their area.
The detection of WPV1 from the stool specimen of a 15-month-old boy from district North Waziristan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has dashed Pakistan’s hope of being a polio-free country.
The Pakistan National Polio Laboratory confirmed the case on April 22. “It’s the first case after 15 months in Pakistan, and 21 months in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” explained the coordinator for the Emergency Operation Center, Abdul Basit.
The baby developed a fever followed by weakness in his lower limbs. When the weakness grew worse, his parents took him to a doctor in Miranshah. They then rushed him to Hayatabad Medical Complex in Peshawar where a doctor confirmed the baby had developed Acute Flaccid Paralysis.
According to the provincial Emergency Operation Center, the parents had refused the vaccine for their child. “The maternal uncle is the area in-charge for the polio campaign,” remarked the EOC coordinator. “But with the help of volunteer polio workers, the family used a fake finger marking.”
After the case surfaced, fear of the virus spread. “Teams have been deployed for emergency immunization in the area,” said Basit. “But without parents and the health department’s support, campaigns cannot achieve their goal.”
It is an uphill task as KP Health officials and workers are not cooperative when it comes to the polio program. “Many District Health Officers have been transferred because they did not cooperate,” said Basit. The situation is still not encouraging.“
The authorities are even paying polio volunteers in Waziristan double the salary to encourage them to work. But the threats and risk of being attacked is so bad that polio workers in tribal districts, especially Waziristan, are reluctant to work there.
Basit says that part of the problem is that polio workers are not permanent staff.
Despite a drastic drop in cases, Pakistan remains one of the two countries, alongside Afghanistan, where polio has yet to be eradicated. To be called polio-free, it must must report zero cases for three years.
KP reported 8 cases in 2018, 93 in 2019, and 22 in 2020 which comes to 123 cases in the last four years. Pakistan has reported 244 polio cases since 2018.