July 1, 2020
By Asim Khan
QUETTA: Poliovirus cases are surging at breakneck speed in comparison to preceding years and already in a span of one week, two new polio cases have emerged in Balochistan.
In the past six months alone, Balochistan has recorded a total of 14 polio cases, while last year in 2019, in comparison 12 cases were reported throughout the province.
Due to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in the country, Pakistan’s yearly anti-polio campaign has suffered a serious setback in the past four months, leaving nearly 2,500,000 children at risk of contracting the disabling disease.
Technical polio team lead of the Balochistan Emergency Operation Center, Dr. Aftab Kakar, explained that due to the threat of the coronavirus contagion, fearful parents are refusing to take their children out of the safety of their homes. Fewer and fewer people are visiting hospitals for their children’s routine immunization by the day. All these factors combined, he stated, have resulted in a massive gap in the government’s polio immunization campaign, and allowed the disease to spread.
Further, polio health workers are now being deployed for the government’s coronavirus awareness campaign after the temporary suspension of its anti-polio campaign.
Every year in Balochistan, routine immunization aims to administer polio drops to 2,500,000 vulnerable children – around 99% of the immunization quota is achieved every year while the remaining 1% is not immunized due to resistance from parents or difficulty in reaching certain communities.
Lack of immunization in neighboring Afghanistan since 2018 has also had adverse effects on the health of children in Balochistan.