Pakistan reports first polio case of 2023

Islamabad [Pakistan], March 18 (ANI): Pakistan reported its first polio case of 2023 after a three-year-old boy in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Bannu district became the latest victim of the disease, confirmed the country’s health ministry, Pakistan-based Dawn newspaper reported.

The case has been reported at a time when delegations of the French Agency for Development (FAD) and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) are in the country to analyse efforts to eradicate the disease. The health ministry in a statement issued on Friday said the FAD and BMGF delegations met the federal health minister to discuss avenues for cooperation in social protection and health, with a focus on polio eradication.

The head of the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) for Polio, Dr Shahzad Baig, said an investigation is ongoing to identify whether the child received the vaccination or the parents refused vaccination.

“However, it is clear that the child was not fully protected and that is why attacked by the virus,” Dr Baig said while talking to Dawn.

He said this was the first case of the current year which has been reported after a gap of five months. Health authorities have issued an alert on the back of the expected movement from tribal districts to urban areas in Ramazan and Eid. The authorities are now planning a vaccination drive in tribal districts from April 10 as currently, security personnel are engaged in the digital census.

According to the NEOC head, there are seven districts in southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), including Dera Ismail Khan, Lakki Marwat, Tank, Bannu, South Waziristan and North Waziristan where the virus is prevalent. “[These areas] need to be targeted vigorously in the vaccination campaign.”

The region was the epicentre of the virus in 2022 with all 20 cases being reported from districts in southern KP. Of them, 17 were from North Waziristan, two were from Lakki Marwat and one was from South Waziristan, according to Dawn.

Though a polio campaign was carried out in Sindh, Punjab and Islamabad in March, the drive couldn’t be started in KP and Balochistan as security staff was occupied with census duties.