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  3. Wednesday, 04 December 2013
Wild Polio virus type 1 (WPV1) stills exists in Quetta as samples collected from the city's sewage system suggested persistence of the virus in the environment. The detection of polio virus has rung alarming bells with potential threat for millions of children of below the age of five in the city. The fresh sewage samples collected by the World Health Organisation (WHO) experts from Sur Pul area of Kharotabad were found positive for the wild polio virus type 1. Quetta the capital city of Balochistan is still under the looming threat of endemic polio virus though WHO, UNICEF and the government of Balochistan were striving hard to eliminate the crippling disease by putting all resources available.The International donor agencies like UNICEF,WHO collect samples from across the country on routine basis and dispatch to the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Islamabad. Samples gathered from the localities in Quetta including Jamia Salfia Airport Road, Takhtani Bypass and Kharotabad were negative for the polio virus, however, sample collected from some other areas were found positive ringing alarming bells for the millions of children below the age of five.Though there was a massive decline in the cases of polio in Balochistan, Threats still persisted as evident from the recent report. Detection of polio virus form the environment was though a matter of great concern. “However, concerned authorities are committed to eradicating the menace from Balochistan and a concerted strategy of the government has brought the dreaded virus to almost its end.” Giving overview of the polio cases and endeavors jointly made by the government, UNICEF and WHO,the previous year only four cases were reported, three in Quetta and one in Shirani district against the number of 58 cases detected in 2011.Due to the comprehensive response in line with international outbreak response guidelines, no case has been reported in the prevailing year.” Three special anti-polio campaigns have been launched in Quetta, Qilla Abdullah and Pishin district considered to be the most affected areas to control the virus. Anti-polio drive is being carried out permanently in all 30 districts to further bring the situation under control.Due to the attacks on polio teams in parts of the province, Balochistan government decided to continue work while remaining low profile. Acceptance of immunisation in rural parts of the province has increased after engagement of tribal and political leaders in campaigns against polio. While in the year of 2012 ten cases of the new virus, named “Sabin-like type 2 poliovirus”, were reported in two Pakhtun-dominated districts of the province over the past three weeks. The districts are frequented by people from the troubled areas of Fata. The situation was grim because of refusal by parents to get their children vaccinated against the crippling disease as the areas are under the influence of extremist groups opposed to the anti-polio drive. Some extremists belonging from banned outfits had established their cells in Balochistan and warn people against vaccination of theirchildren.Some teams had visited Pishin and Qilla Abdullah meet the local people and it was revealed that extremists had established their camps and were involved in killing people from Punjab.The people mostly coming from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and other tribal areas brought the virus with them.The Federal Government declared ‘red alert’ against the poor state of polio eradication drive in Balochistan and asked the administration to launch an emergency campaign in the province. The situation in Quetta block, which includes Killa Abdullah and Pishin,was aggravated by the continued resistance to and intransigence of the district health authorities and supervisory cadre of vaccinators. New polio virus had not only affected 10 children in Pakistan but also paralysed two children in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province.The PM Office also expressed concern over the low level of routine immunisation and asked the provincial government to immediately hold three rounds of anti-polio campaign in Qilla Abdullah. The concerned authorities called for urgent steps to institute the WHO’s direct disbursement mechanism across the board for payment to the polio team staff. Measures should also be taken to improve the routine immunisation coverage in Qilla Abdullah on an emergency basis with clear targets and milestones given to district health teams. Stubbornness of the provincial health department and government supervisors for polio eradication in Balochistan is one of the biggest reasons behind dismal performance of the polio programme that has resulted in detection of new strain of poliovirus in Pakistan and threatens to impose travel restrictions on citizens that may put the country in an extremely embarrassing situation in the near future. Meanwhile polio virus that crippled at least 13 Syrian children last month was originated in Pakistan, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).This demands to carry out some new strategies to cope up with the situation to save Pakistan from dreadful situation in future.

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