One more attack on a polio centre in Pak

L to R: Nigeria National PolioPlus Committee Chair Abdul Rahman Tunji Funsho, Pakistan National PolioPlus Committee Chair Aziz Memon, Afghanistan National PolioPlus Committee Chair Mohammad Ishaq Niazmand.

Yet again a polio immunisation centre and polio vaccinators were targeted in the Pakistani city of Quetta, when a bomb went off on Jan 13 near a polio centre in the heart of the Balochistan capital, killing 15 security workers who were guarding the centre.

“It was an immensely tragic event and Rotary International, all Rotarians and our partners in the fight to eradicate polio, offer our heartfelt condolences and express a deep sadness in the wake of this horrific bomb attack in Quetta. This is a stark reminder of the dangers faced by Rotary, our partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, and the brave women and men on the frontlines of our effort to protect all children from the paralysing effects of polio,” said Aziz Memon, Pakistan’s National PolioPlus Chair.

But despite these dastardly attacks on polio workers and the immunisation campaign, Pakistan was slowly making strides towards total eradication of polio from the country, thanks to “the government’s commitment to continue the vaccination campaign throughout the country,” he added.

This horrific attack is a stark reminder of the dangers faced by the brave women and men on the front lines of our effort to protect all children from the paralysing effects of polio.

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries where the polio virus is still endemic.

He said in 2015, Pakistan has reported 54 Wild Polio Virus (WPV) cases from 23 infected districts/agencies as compared to 306 WPV cases from 44 districts in 2014. This decline is due to “stringent measures taken by the Pakistan Government, our polio partners and the National and Provincial agencies during the low transmission season campaigns. Security has improved in most high risk areas,” he added. Giving details of a post campaign evaluation, Memon said of the 59,395 children checked randomly through finger marking, it was found that 97 per cent had been vaccinated.

But in order to end polio cases in Pakistan, the safety of vaccinators would have to be assured and steps intensified to step up security measures at the Pak-Afghan border to cover transit population in the border areas. Children under five travelling between the two countries across the border would have to get maximum attention, he said.

Memon added that Rotary is constructing two rooms as a Permanent Transit Point at Friendship Gate, Pak-Afghan Chaman border, which will not only serve for polio immunisation but also provide a meeting point between Pakistani and Afghan polio officials. n

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