Pakistan: Politicians call for inquiry as number of polio cases rises sharply

17 Sep, 2019
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Pakistan’s main opposition party has demanded an investigation into the country’s sharply rising number of polio cases, as the troubled eradication campaign increasingly becomes a political battlefield.

Former ministers and advisers of the PML-N party, which lost power in last year’s general election, said the campaign had become a disaster and a commission should be set up to establish responsibility.

The number of cases of the crippling virus are already five times higher in 2019 than in the whole of last year, with the worst of the high transmission season still not yet over. Pakistan has seen 62 cases so far this year, compared to 12 in the whole of 2018.

Former health minister Saira Afzal Tarar and former focal person for the eradication campaign Sen Ayesha Raza Farooq said current efforts appeared to be in disarray, the newspaper Dawn reported.

Babar Atta, Imran Khan’s special adviser on polio eradication, attacked the opposition for politicising polio eradication. He said the party had fallen “to a new low by using 62 paralysed children for political score settling”.

The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB), which tracks countries’ eradication efforts on behalf of donors, is due to review Pakistan’s progress next month.

The north eastern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has emerged as the biggest haunt of the virus, which is now only found in three countries in the world.

Mr Atta has alleged vaccination rates were faked in previous years, with parents being allowed to say their children had taken drops when they had not.

To reduce opposition and resentment of the polio workers, he has suggested workers conduct fewer door to door visits and the police are less heavy handed prosecuting those who refuse drops.

The worldwide polio eradication campaign should be within striking distance of stamping out the crippling virus, but the final stretch is proving stubbornly difficult. When it began in 1988, polio struck 350,000 children a year in 125 endemic countries.

Polio now persists only in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, with those countries seeing 33 cases in 2018. Last month Nigeria marked three years with no cases of the disease, meaning that it and the whole continent of Africa could soon be officially certified polio free.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 17th, 2019 at 4:09 pm and is filed under Latest News.

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