Polio resurging

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REMAINING polio free for many months had raised hopes and optimism that Pakistan is very close to end this crippling disease.

However, the sudden emergence of polio cases over the last month or so is really worrying and should ring alarm bells in the quarters concerned to do the needful to win the battle against this virus.

The other day, the country reported two more cases of polio, taking the total to six this year.

All cases have been reported from North Waziristan tribal district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa amidst fears that more cases may come as viral circulation is expected to be higher up to September.

The two victims paralyzed for the rest of their lives are an 18-month-old boy and a girl of the same age.

These back-to-back cases in a short span of time along with sewerage detections from south KP depict an intense ongoing transmission in the zone.

With strong linkages between the residents of these districts with the rest of Pakistan, the risk is likely to be wider, especially for high-risk areas.

Hence it has become imperative to conduct a thorough risk assessment afresh, including epidemiologically linked areas of Afghanistan.

The current situation clearly indicates that the families in Waziristan have refused administration of anti-polio drops to their children.

A strong response backed up by strategic communication and community engagement plan is urgently required.

Different segments of the society, especially the religious scholars, will have to come forward to spread the message of significance of anti-polio drops for the life and health of children.

The simultaneous focus must be maintained on essential immunisation as well as supplementary immunisation activities, ensuring that no child is administered the polio drops.

Since Afghanistan is the only other country which is still reporting polio cases, we will have to synchronize our efforts with the neighbouring country to tackle the virus.

The services of polio workers also need to be recognized in the form of providing them proper security as well as a career path so that they could work with peace of mind.