Five more polio cases emerge in Pakistan
Islamabad: Five new cases of polio have been detected in Pakistan, taking the total number of people affected this year to 171, even as the WHO described the country as the “most important stumbling block” in the global fight against the crippling disease.
Two new cases were reported from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and one each from Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and Karachi, according to the National Institute of Health Laboratory.
In Balochistan, a 23-month-old boy, whose uncle heads a local Islamic seminary and vehemently opposes polio vaccination campaigns, has been infected with the virus.
His family thinks “polio drops are part of a Western campaign to control Muslim population,” said a NGO official working in the area.
Meanwhile, the WHO director-general Margaret Chan told an informal high-level meeting of the UN that Pakistan remains the “single most important stumbling block along the road to ending polio,” the Express Tribune reported.
“Right now, a massive polio outbreak is sweeping across the country. Worldwide, nearly nine out of every 10 children paralysed by polio live in Pakistan,” Chan was quoted as saying by the media here.
Pakistan is one of three countries alongwith Nigeria and Afghanistan where polio is still endemic.
Most of the recent polio cases have been reported from the violence-hit FATA region where Pakistani army is engaged in the counter-insurgency military operation to flush out foreign and local militants hiding in these rugged mountains, affecting the polio immunisation drive of health workers.
Taliban violence also remain a constant threat and dozens of health workers and security personnel have died in attacks on polio vaccination teams in the northwest and the port city of Karachi.
Two security personnels, one each from Karachi and Peshawar, were killed in attacks on polio vaccination teams earlier this month while in March, 12 paramilitary troops and a child were killed in two blasts targeting the health workers.