In 1988, the forty-first World Health Assembly, consisting then of delegates from 166 Member States, adopted a resolution for the worldwide eradication of polio. It marked the launch of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, spearheaded by WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). This followed the certification of the eradication of smallpox in 1980, progress during the 1980s towards elimination of the poliovirus in the Americas, and Rotary International’s commitment to raise funds to protect all children from the disease. In 1988, there were estimated to be 350,000 reported cases of polio in the world. Overall, since the Global Polio Eradication Initiative was launched, the number of cases has fallen by over 99%. In 2012, only three countries in the world remain polio-endemic. Persistent pockets of polio transmission in northern Nigeria and along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan are key epidemiological challenges.
India is the recent entrant in the list of polio free countries. India was a country where highest numbers of polio cases were reported in 2009 and for them to become a polio free country is really commendable taking into account the fact that India is a population of one billion people.
Pakistan joined the WHO polio eradication initiative a bit late in the year 1994.By this time most of the countries were declared polio free and polio was present in only 30 countries. Currently Pakistan is bracketed with that rare region of the globe where polio existed and although we are the sixth largest populous country of the world but like Afghanistan & Nigeria we too were unable to eradicate polio. A sad and worrying reality is that number of polio cases in Pakistan rose in last couple of years instead of decreasing.198 new polio cases were reported in Pakistan last year which is the highest number of polio cases reported in any country during this period. In comparison 81 cases were reported in Afghanistan and 95 in Nigeria last year. It is feared that if we as a nation did not discharge our responsibilities comprehensively in line with the goals set by the global community and not create awareness among masses about administering polio drops to children under five years of age, we may get the dubious honor of being the only country of the world having traces of polio virus.
To remove polio virus from Pakistan completely, following steps may be helpful
1) Make sure that all children less than five years of age be administer polio drops whenever the immunization campaign conducted around the country.
2) All misconceptions about the vaccine are removed. The removal of misconception about the disease is a massive target as it is one of the major reasons of parents’ non-cooperation with vaccination teams especially in country’s rural area. Massive campaigns on print and electronic media should be carried out. In my point of view with the influx of private channels specially the news channels, country’s population are now most of the time viewing local channels and these channels can play a huge part in removing misconception about the vaccine and prompting parents to administer polio drops to their children.
3) Steps should be taken to build proper infrastructure as in our many parts of the country we do not have proper sanitation facilities. Rotary international will soon be launching a project to build 500 toilets in high risk districts but Pakistan need proper toilets in all parts of the country and government should take all steps so that hygiene is maintained as unhygienic environment also a cause of polio’s spread.
4) Budgetary allocation on health be massively increase. The audaciously low amount allocated in country’s budget for health & education sector is a clear indication of our government’s misdirected priorities. We need to reassess our priorities and bring them in line with the global perspective.
Polio eradication is crucial for Pakistan’s future as our people may face travel ban or other hassles like people going for pilgrimage may have to take polio drops irrespective of their age before embarking on the journey.
To prevent our self from global embarrassment, we as a nation must work together cohesively & seriously to make Pakistan polio free very soon. If India a country possessing 8 time more population then Pakistan can eradicate this menace in two years, I am sure that Pakistan can also eradicate polio if we honestly set our sight on this target.
Once polio is eradicated, the world can celebrate the delivery of a major global public good that will benefit all people equally, no matter where they live. Economic modeling has found that the eradication of polio in the next five years would save at least US$ 40-50 billion, mostly in low-income countries
A graphical comparison of 3 countries where polio exist
No. of Polio cases reported each Year
Figures taken from report on WHO website