Polio eradication in India has been possible only because of unwavering political will at the highest levels, adequate financial resources and technological innovations, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said after India completed three years without any polio case. Industry stalwarts like Amitabh Bachchan played a huge role in this effort.
Now, Pakistan is the only polio-endemic country in the world that reported more cases of the crippling disease last year than in 2012. According to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report, 83 polio cases were reported from Pakistan in 2013 as against 58 in 2012.
A total of 369 cases, including those from Pakistan, were reported from endemic and non-endemic countries around the world last year.
“Non-uniform routine immunisation coverage in several areas, mostly in the northwest part of (Pakistan), is a prime reason behind the increase in the cases,” the report said.
A total of 59 polio cases were recorded in the tribal areas, 10 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province and seven each in Punjab and Sindh provinces.
All were “type-1″ cases, indicating one of the longest periods with no reports of type-3 cases from Pakistan. The three types of polio are extremely virulent though type-1 is the most commonly encountered form and the one most closely associated with paralysis.
Taliban attacks on health workers and vaccinators were one of the main reasons hampering anti-polio campaigns in Pakistan’s tribal areas and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Several health workers lost their lives in militant attacks during the past couple of years.
Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan. whose Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf party rules Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, has requested the Taliban not to target health workers administering anti-polio drops to children.
The WHO report said war-torn Afghanistan reported only 11 polio cases in 2013 and all were “associated with multiple importations with no evidence of local re-established circulation” compared with 35 cases reported in 2012.
“Afghanistan is under consideration for removal from the list of endemic countries, indicating a significant positive development for them,” the report said.
The number of global cases last year stood at 369, compared to 218 in 2012. The total number in endemic countries last year was 145, compared with 212 in 2012.
The number of cases reported in non-endemic countries was 224 in 2013, compared with six in 2012.
Nigeria is the third country, after Pakistan and Afghanistan, where polio remains endemic.
Source: PTI news