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Irfan Haider, Jamrud, Khyber Agency :: Four years old Alam Khan wants to go outside in the playground with his elder brother but his brother is looking reluctant to take along with him because of disability as he could not walk easily like his other sisters and brothers due to victim of Polio.
A resident of Ghundi area of Tehsil Jamrud of Khyber Agency in Federal Administrated Tribal Area (FATA), 45 years old, Nawaz Khan who is father of Alam Khan told that his son is suffering due to polio virus since October 17, 2012 because of his mistake as he did not give anti-polio drops to his son during the campaign days. He added that he realized the fact when he found that his son was crawling on legs and unable to walk without the support of the others as his right leg infected by polio virus.
According to the data provided by the Expanded Programme for Immunization (EPI), 58 polio cases were reported across the country including 20 from FATA, 27 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, four from Balochistan and four from Sindh in the year 2012.
It is important to mention here that nine cases of polio victims reported in the first four and half months of this year across the country while out of these nine cases, three polio cases were reported in the current month of May, 2013 including two from Khyber and North Waziristan Agencies of FATA and one from District Mardan of KPK.
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), Islamabad, the affected children including, 10-month-old Fawad, a resident of Sama Garghi village in Bara sub-division of Khyber Agency who was only administered one vaccination dose of the recommended five, one-year-old Arifa, belongs to Mir Ali tehsil in NWA who did not receive polio drops due to the ban on polio vaccinations imposed by the Taliban in her area and an eight-month-old Noman, a resident of Sugar Cane Village, Shiekh Yousaf, Mardan district of KPK had the type-1 polio virus who was not administered anti-polio vaccinations because his parents considered it ‘against the teachings of Islam.’
An official of the FATA Secretariat said that it is difficult for the vaccination teams to visit North Waziristan, South Waziristan and Tirah Valley of Khyber Agency to counter the increasing cases of polio in FATA because the militants groups imposed ban on the entry of vaccination teams in the region.
On June 16, 2012, militant commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur imposed a ban on polio vaccination in the North Waziristan Agency till the end of drone strikes in the area while on June 26, 2012 a similar ban imposed by Maulvi Nazir in the South Waziristan Agency who was killed in a U.S drone strike in Wana area of the South Waziristan Agency. Since then, no anti-polio drive was carried out in North and South Waziristan Agencies.
Another militant group Lashkar-e-Islam (LI) headed by Mangal Bagh in Khyber Agency associates polio drive with the end of military operation and drone strikes against them as the terrorist group announced back in 2012 that they would not allow anti-polio teams to run their drive in Khyber Agency till the end of military offensive against their group.
Director General Health Fata Fawad Khan said that the total target population in the last National Immunization campaign in FATA from April 15 to 17 was 1.3 million, out of which 0.52 million children were vaccinated while according to the Fata health department, 0.2 million children missed out on vaccines in North and South Waziristan due to the ban.
Imran Shinwari a teacher by profession in Bara tehsil of Khyber Agency who was part of the anti -polio drive while commenting on after fresh polio cases were reported said that polio campaigners could not reach out to war torn areas of Khyber Agency for fear of being abducted by militants. He maintained that the untrained and teenager workers caused emerging of many polio cases in Khyber Agency. He also added that because of non-availability of female workers Anti-Polio vaccination have been unsuccessful in the area.
The polio campaign suffered major security setbacks as polio workers were targeted in different parts of the country. According to data obtained from the PM Polio Cell, the total number of health workers gunned down since July 2012 currently stands at 16.
Programme Specialist Fata of UNICEF, Dr Rafiq Khan to a question said in war ravaged area of Fata, the polio campaign is not less than a challenging job while it is important to vaccinate children to avoid them disability otherwise the affected children could be suffer psychologically and they would find himself inferior as compared to other children in their surroundings.
According to a representative of the World Health Organisation (WHO) for FATA Dr Sarfaraz said that there are two kinds of refusals in FATA from the parents side, one is open refusal that they don’t need polio drops for their children while the other is silent refusal under which parents inform the polio teams that their children are not at home as yet.
The WHO Representative said that under the special polio drive, the campaign will be start from May 20 to May 22, 2013 while the target is to vaccinate 0.7 million children of FATA. “Around 0.3 million children of North Waziristan, South Waziristan, Tirah Valley of Khyber agency and some areas of Kurram Agency will not be able to get polio vaccine due to ban of militants groups in these areas,” he added.
National Coordinator for Monitoring Pakistan’s Polio Vaccination Programme Dr Altaf Boson said that many cases may be going unreported because of the absence of a credible monitoring and reporting mechanism while available data suggests a strong connection between peace and polio.
He said that people should be made aware through media and door-to-door campaigns, especially in far-flung areas, that polio vaccination can save children from permanent disability in life and secure a better future for them. “Continuity in the immunisation campaign and a realisation of the importance of a polio-free society will make a lot of difference,” he added.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) Emergency Coordinator for Polio Eradication in Pakistan Dr. Durry said that the organization strives to ensure the sustainability of health by monitoring polio cases and introducing mop-up campaigns in infested areas to ensure that the environment remains clean, preventing the virus from returning.
The WHO Coordinator said that the virus is at its worst during the Monsoon season (August-October) in Pakistan which is a big challenge.
According to Michael Coleman, Communication Specialist (Polio) at UNICEF said that UNICEF helps not only in vaccine procurement but also in generating sustainable awareness through repeated campaigns. “Media has a strong role to play in dispelling the myths while the vaccine is perfectly safe and is necessary for the vulnerable children of Pakistan,” he added.
Senator Afrisiab Khattak of Awami National Party (ANP) said that people will have to change their attitude towards the immunisation campaign if polio is to be completely eradicated from Pakistan. “People should reject the absurd extremist view that the polio campaign is a conspiracy hatched by Western countries to reduce Muslim populations,” he added.
The Amir of Jamat e Islami-a major religio political party Syed Munawar Hassan said that polio is as serious a threat to an entire generation of Pakistanis as terrorism. It makes sense to start an intense public debate on preventive health delivery systems, such as polio vaccination while this is the first step towards polio eradication. “It is not an easy task to eliminate extremism from our soil but we can certainly eradicate polio from our country,” he added.
Nawaz Khan who is father of polio victim Alam Khan said that it was his major mistake in his life as he did not provide polio vaccine to his son during his campaign but after the disability of his four years son, he feels sorry on his blunder and never delay in providing of polio vaccination of his others children those are younger’s to four years old Alam Khan.

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