ISLAMABAD: Two new polio cases were confirmed from Lakki Marwat district which also happens to be the constituency of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Health Minister Hisham Inamullah Khan.
An official of the Polio Virology Laboratory at the National Institute of Health (NIH), who is not authorised to speak on record, said both cases were reported from Lakki Marwat. “A six-month-old male, resident of Kotka Mushkalam, Tehsil Serai Naurang, District Lakki Marwat, has been confirmed with the poliovirus.” he said. “The second child is an eighteen-month-old-male, resident of Kotka Bazee Sheikh, Tehsil Serai Naurang, District Lakki Marwat,” he said.
“Because of the recent cases, the total number of polio cases has increased to 50 in the province and overall cases across the country has reached 66, as compared to 12 cases in 2018 and eight cases in 2017,” he added. “During the current year, six cases have been reported from Sindh and five each from Balochistan and Punjab,” he said.
Total number of cases this year tops 66
The official said it was worrying that after Bannu, cases were being reported from Lakki Marwat. “Thousands of refusals and missed children are also being reported from the district during every anti-polio vaccination campaign,” he said.
The health minister could not be contacted despite repeated attempts to get in touch with him by Dawn. But Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Babar Bin Atta spoke to Dawn and explained the possible reason for the increase in polio cases in district Lakki Marwat. “Bannu and Lakki Marwat are adjacent to each other. Whenever cases start to increase in Bannu they also start increasing in Lakki Marwat,” he said. “However, we have decided to give special focus to Lakki Marwat so that no more cases are reported from there. During every polio campaign it would be ensured that no child is missed,” he said.
The focal person also told Dawn about the way the campaign was being sabotaged by parents. “It is unfortunate that people have kept markers in their homes and on the very first day of the anti-polio vaccination campaign they mark the fingers of their children to avoid vaccination,” he said. Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by poliovirus mainly affecting children under the age of five. Repeated immunisations have protected millions of children from polio. Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries in the world where poliovirus continues to persist.
Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2019