Is Pakistan Set to Have a Revival of Polio?

For some years now, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries in the world where polio is still endemic. Massive effort by numerous agencies, and foundations, including the Gates foundation and the WHO-funded Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPIE) had ensured that as of 2018, there were 12 cases in Pakistan.

In 2019, however, the number of cases rose to 147 and there were also accusations of the government “covering up the resurgence of the P2 strain of the virus, which was thought to have been eradicated in 2014.”

One of the many impacts of the Covid19 pandemic has been that in April 2020, 40 million Pakistani children missed their polio drops after the nationwide vaccination campaign was cancelled.

According to Dr Rana Safdar, national coordinator for polio eradication, “We will plan a nationwide campaign as soon as we get an opportunity. But we are equally worried about routine immunisation campaigns as those are being missed due to Covid-19. I fear for the outbreak of vaccine drive diseases, such as measles.”

In 2019, the International Monitoring Board of GPIE “said the polio programme had become “a political football” in Pakistan.”

Pakistan has received international funding for polio eradication since 1994, but as an official who has worked with the polio program for more than 15 years stated to The Guardian “We have a failure tag attached with us. We are the most funded polio program [in the world]. India eradicated polio with lesser funding.”

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