Pak­istan should not take its po­lio battle victory for granted

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

As the sun set on 2014, the tally of new po­lio cases dur­ing the year had crossed 300, break­ing Pak­istan’s own record of nearly a decade and a half.

But now, af­ter a har­row­ing year, there is fi­nally some­thing pos­i­tive to state.

The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion has noted that the num­ber of new cases re­ported so far this year has seen a 70 per­cent decline as com­pared to the cor­re­spond­ing pe­riod last year, fall­ing from 84 cases in the first half of 2014 to 24 over the past six months.

This is be­ing un­der­stood as one of the out­comes of the in­ten­si­fied army op­er­a­tion against mil­i­tancy in the north-west­ern parts of the coun­try, which has now been un­der way for al­most a year.

This has al­lowed bet­ter ac­cess to fam­i­lies in ar­eas that were pre­vi­ously in­ac­ces­si­ble, and fur­ther, it has proved pos­si­ble to ad­min­is­ter po­lio drops on a large scale to the in­ter­nally dis­placed.

WHO has also con­ceded that there have been some im­prove­ments in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the anti-po­lio plan, such as work­ing with com­mu­ni­ties in Karachi to have chil­dren vac­ci­nated.

En­cour­ag­ing though all this is, it should not be al­lowed to mask the po­lio chal­lenge in its en­tirety, where suc­cesses such as th­ese are a mere drop in the ocean.

Far more ef­fort needs to be put in. It should not be forgotten that the pres­ence of even one un­vac­ci­nated child in a com­mu­nity can act as the spark that leads to fire.

Fur­ther, the vi­o­lence that has been vis­ited on vac­ci­na­tors means that they now work un­der heavy se­cu­rity de­tail; it is dif­fi­cult to see how this can be sus­tained in the long term.

The fact that a par­ent’s or guardian’s re­fusal to al­low the po­lio drops to be ad­min­is­tered to a child now car­ries the penalty of ar­rest shows that the state has not re­ally man­aged to turn around the nar­ra­tive re­gard­ing po­lio that ex­trem­ist el­e­ments skewed so dan­ger­ously.

In short, Pak­istan must in ev­ery way guard against com­pla­cency on the po­lio front. This is an ed­i­to­rial pub­lished by Dawn on June 8th.

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