Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Polio Cases on Rise in Pakistan

LAHORE: In its first global analysis for 2014, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says that Pakistan is the only polio-endemic country which reported more polio cases last year than in 2012.

The analysis cited ‘non-uniform routine immunisation coverage’ with several areas having abysmally low routine immunisation coverage as major challenges which needed focus on fighting the crippling disease.

Opposition from militant groups has hampered efforts to vaccinate children against polio in Pakistan and officials said violence was part of the reason for the increase in cases.
“Last year there were a total of 58 cases, but 62 fresh victims of polio have already been reported in 2013,” a senior government official, who works with international donors working to eradicate polio, told AFP.

"We have entered a phase that we were all worried about and were afraid might happen," Elias Durry, head of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) in Pakistan, told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"The main reason for the outbreak is militancy in the northwest. Vaccination teams are unable to reach the tribal areas because of risks to their lives," the official said.

Polio cases reached a low of 28 in 2005 but have risen since, reaching a peak of 198 in 2011.

In August health officials warned of a serious polio outbreak in the northwest, saying more than 240,000 children had missed vaccination because of the Taliban ban.

Elsewhere in the country, health workers giving out polio drops have been attacked and killed, including in the largest city Karachi.

On Monday the World Health Organisation linked an outbreak of polio in Syria that has paralysed 13 children to a strain of the virus from Pakistan.

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