Assaulting Polio in Terrorist Territory- Eradicating Polio along the Pakistan-Afghanistan Boarder

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Life is hard for children growing up on the Pakistan-Afghan border these days. Earthquake, floods, lack of electricity, Taliban infiltration and American drone missiles are all too familiar. It is no surprise that too many children are missing immunizations.



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Populations are on the move and children are inaccessible, especially in the border areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Taliban’s voice against vaccination has been loud and strong. The government’s weak policies and weaker implementation have contributed to the continued persistence of poliovirus transmission in Pakistan, which continues to portend a threat of global resurgence, especially since polio has been eradicated from most parts of the world.

Since the Global Polio Eradication Initiative was launched in 1988, the WHO, UNICEF, CDC, other donors and national governments across the world have come together to eradicate poliovirus transmission worldwide. Great strides have been made to this effect, but as of earlier this year, polio remains endemic in three countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. Pakistan has the highest rates of polio among these, with rates actually increasing from 2010 to 2011.

With this increase, the Pakistan government has reassessed the National Emergency Action Plan (NEAP) and has augmented the plan with the goal of full eradication by the end of 2012. The goal is to target the children in the high risk populations and to engage the government, from the prime minister to the FATA and community levels.

Donors should hold the government accountable to the NEAP 2012, and the ministry of health along with Pakistan Pediatric Association should ensure accountability at the regional level. Media advocacy, community education and involvement, engagement with religious leaders and frequent, accessible vaccination camps should all be implemented. Efforts must be intensified at this time while Pakistan remains poised for eradication in the near future if given a chance.

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2 Responses to “Assaulting Polio in Terrorist Territory- Eradicating Polio along the Pakistan-Afghanistan Boarder”

  1. sbfphc Says:

    Disease elimination in unstable areas is a constant and global problem. Guinea worm was targeted for eradication in 1995, but the fighting in Sudan was one of the factors delaying this achievement until today. Malaria control has become extremely challenging in refugee camps in DRC. Pakistan was one of the first countries to actively eliminate guinea worm nearly 20 years ago. Hopefully they can add polio to their achievements.

  2. ashraful74 Says:

    Thank you for your post. I want add some points regarding polio eradication in Pakistan.
    According to Global Polio Eradication Initiative in Pakistan, persistent wild poliovirus transmission is restricted to three groups of districts: (1) Karachi city, (2) a group of districts in Balochistan Province, and (3) districts in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In addition, Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan repeatedly re-infect one other, due to the substantial population movements within and between the countries. Therefore to eradicate polio other than areas around Pakistan Afghan border they also have to focus on big city like Karachi city also. With recent killing of a community worker involve in polio eradication in Karachi will make it very difficult to carry out polio eradication program there. The government needs to explain the people that there is absolutely no relationship between polio eradication program and U.S. drone attacks on Taliban. The government also has to provide security for all the community workers involve in polio vaccination. They need to engage all parties to support implementation of supplementary immunization activities.

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