Pakistan should not take its polio battle victory for granted
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.