Pakistan could be the next country on the journey to a polio-free world, the World Health Organisation has said. Pakistan is one of the three countries, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, where polio is still endemic.
Attempts to eradicate the disease in Pakistan have been seriously hampered by the targeting of vaccination teams in recent years by militants, who oppose the drives, claiming the polio drops cause infertility. Attacks on immunisation teams have claimed nearly 80 lives since December 2012.
Speaking at an event on World Polio Day on Saturday here, WHO Country Representative Dr Palitha Mahipala said after over 30 years of effort, the African region was certified as free of wild polio in August, and Pakistan could be the next country on the journey to a polio-free world, the Dawn News reported on Sunday.
"Due to enormous challenges such as misconceptions about vaccines and the COVID-19 lockdowns, the efforts against polio have been affected. The polio programme, with its partners, has now been able to ramp-up activities which are vitalised resolve to end polio in Pakistan, as recently done by Africa," he said.
Mahipala noted that global partners, including WHO and UNICEF, have contributed significantly while supporting the Pakistan government in the effort to eradicate polio.
However, more is needed to eradicate the disease once and for all; a key factor in its success is the hard work of more than 260,000 frontline workers, he said.
As part of the ongoing polio eradication campaigns, the next sub-national campaign will begin on October 26 with a target to vaccinate more than 31 million children below the age of five.
The campaign will include 33 districts each in Punjab and Balochistan, 41 districts and towns in Sindh, eight districts in Gilgit Baltistan, 10 districts in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and one district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Last year, 144 polio cases were reported in Pakistan, far higher than 12 in 2018 and eight in 2017.