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‘Fake’ polio figures

Publication Date : 20-05-2014

 

Part of Pakistan’s polio problem may be that some in the official machinery seem to have fudged figures to make it appear as if large numbers of children had been vaccinated when this was in reality not the case.

On Friday, the Senate was told the provinces had sent ‘fake’ reports related to the anti-polio drive. According to the minister of state for national health services, the provincial governments shared “fabricated” figures with the centre.

At face value this claim seems to have substance, as if there had indeed been 80 or 90 per cent success in the immunisation campaign, Pakistan would not be leading the world in the number of polio cases reported so far this year. What is needed at all levels of the state machinery is honesty about what has gone wrong with the drive to eradicate polio from the country.

A proper investigation is in order and the provincial health departments need to explain if figures indeed had been fabricated.

Of equal concern is the government’s strategy to carry forward the immunisation campaign effectively. The prime minister recently said that administering polio drops would be a must for all children entering the settled areas from Fata.

Though some have criticised the move, the fact is that the tribal belt remains the most problematic area where polio is concerned, for the vast majority of cases have been reported from the region. While vaccinating children leaving and entering the tribal belt is one solution, youngsters living within Fata, especially the agencies where militants hold sway, should not be forgotten.

The Waziristan agencies are specific areas of concern. Along with administering drops on thoroughfares within the tribal belt, perhaps the state can link the issuance of documents such as identity cards and domiciles to adults with proof of children’s vaccination.

Apart from the tribal belt, the campaign needs to be carried out more thoroughly in areas where polio cases have been reported, as well as cities where the virus has been found in sewage samples, such as Karachi and Lahore.

 

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