PESHAWAR: Pakistan launched a fresh polio vaccination drive in its restive tribal belt yesterday, but officials warned that nearly 370,000 children are likely to miss out because of security problems.
At the start of May the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared a global “public health emergency” after new polio cases began surfacing and spreading across borders from countries including Pakistan.
Pakistan’s seven semi-autonomous tribal areas along the Afghan border are the epicentre of the country’s polio cases and the government has set up checkpoints to ensure anyone leaving the belt is immunised.
A three-day vaccination drive began yesterday in four tribal areas, a senior government official in Peshawar, the region’s main city, told reporters, with more than 620,000 youngsters on course to receive polio drops.
But the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, warned that children in three of the four targeted areas “would not be able to receive polio drops because of the militancy and opposition to the immunisation”.
Violence has badly hampered the campaign to stamp out polio in Pakistan, where militant groups with strongholds in tribal areas, including the Pakistani Taliban, see vaccination campaigns as a cover for espionage.
“A total of 369,039 in three districts would not receive polio drops because of the law and order situation,” the govt official said.
The three districts in question are North Waziristan, South Waziristan and Mohmand, the official said.
Part of the fourth district, Khyber, would also be affected.