A million children miss out on polio immunisation

Thursday, October 18th, 2012 9:30:37 by


Around one million children across the country under the age of five missed out on a three-day national polio immunisation campaign, which targeted 32 million children from October 15-17.

According to data obtained from the Polio control room at EPI Cell, 998,569 children, in all 183 districts of the country, were not administered polio drops during this campaign.

The polio control cell which used to facilitate and vaccinate thousands of children across the country has been non-functional since March, 2012, leaving hundreds and thousands of parents in a helpless situation. According to sources, the polio control cell project was suspended after media reports surfaced that the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) and the Prime Minister’s Polio Monitoring and Co-ordination Cell had spent 0,000 on the publicity of the cell during the month of March, but the polio control cell toll number failed to operate.

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), 400,000 children missed out on the immunisation campaign in Punjab (26,000 in Lahore, 24,488 in Multan, 12,194 in Okara, 18,495 in Rahim Yar Khan, and 15,733 in Rawalpindi) 300,000 in Sindh (78,615 in Karachi), 40,000 in Balochistan (10,500 in Quetta), 22,000 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) (14,871 in Charsadda), 7,000 in Islamabad, and 24,000 in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).

When contacted, a Unicef spokesperson for polio eradication, Michael Coleman, said, “Unicef partially funded the hotline to support the PM’s Polio Cell.” However, he added that the PM’s polio spokesman was best placed to respond.

On the other hand, Mazhar Nisar, spokesperson for the PM’s polio cell, admitted that there was no mechanism for parents to vaccinate their children if they had missed out on the campaign.

However, he added that negotiations were underway with various leading telecom operators to restart the polio control cell.

When asked about how children who missed the campaign would be facilitated, Nisar said they would be covered during the national door-to-door polio campaign on October 18-20.

Dr Elias Durry, World Health Organisation (WHO)’s chief coordinator for polio eradication in Pakistan, said that while the achievement of vaccinating millions of children during every polio campaign should be celebrated, finding and vaccinating the children who missed out should be the top priority for all polio teams across the country.

Fata immunisation

According to a source in Fata’s Expanded Programme for Immunisation (EPI) cell, the immunisation target in Fata was set at 874,107 children below the ages of five. However, since the target areas included militancy-hit areas, including 161,358 children in North Waziristan, 75,906 children in South Waziristan, 2,015 in Lower Kurram Agency, 3,382 in Orakzai Agency, and 13,487 children in Bannu, these children remained deprived of anti-polio vaccines.

“5.2 million children under the age of five year is the target in K-P and Fata for the October national immunisation drive,” said K-P’s EPI Deputy Director, Dr Janbaz Afridi. He added that data had not yet been compiled as to how many children in the region had missed out on the immunisation campaign.

Forty-five polio cases have been reported from across the country in 2012. (WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM SAMIA SALEEM IN KARACHI)

Published in The Express Tribune, October 18th, 2012.

Quetta News Sources -2

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