QUETTA: Balochistan’s Emergency Operation Centre has identified at least 51 union councils (UCs) in five districts of the province as high-risk for poliovirus, calling for concrete steps and greater commitment to eradicating the crippling disease.
Of late, environmental samples collected Qila Abdullah – one of the high-risk districts – were tested positive for poliovirus, setting alarm bells ringing for the administration.
“It is very serious [situation] and utmost efforts are under way by the provincial government to eradicate the virus with a revised strategy,” said Dr Syed Saifur Rehman, the coordinator of EOC Balochistan, which is tasked to improve its performance and coordination during vaccination campaigns in the province.
At the same time, poliovirus is also posing a threat to another 25 districts, including some plagued by Baloch insurgency. ‘Although there haven’t been fresh cases of polio in these districts, children of these areas are o at risk,” Dr Saif said.
The high-risk UCs are in Quetta, Pishin, Qila Abadullah, Zhob and Mastung. “Now, we will pay more attention to those areas which will help us eradicate this crippling disease,” he added.
A mass immunisation campaign, known as Sub-National Immunisation Days campaign, will start in eight districts – Quetta, Pishin, Qila Abdullah, Zhob, Jaffarabad, Lasebala, Nasirabad and Sherani – from May 28. The target population for this campaign is more than 1.2 million children.
Dr Jawahir Habib, who works as communication development specialist in Unicef, Balochistan, said we need to focus our efforts on the children who are at risk of being missed during the campaign. “Every child has to be immunised against polio to ensure that the circulation of the virus is interpreted,” she said. “Estimated 21,000 children in Balochistan are missed in each campaign and for us mapping, tracing and coverage of children is a priority.”
Balochistan will be launching female community health volunteers to improve the coverage of anti-polio drives in high-risks areas, Dr Habib said.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 25th, 2015.
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