Preventing Polio attacks 

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A polio worker was killed in Mohmand district on Monday, according to a news report.  It is unfortunate that Pakistan still remains one of the two countries in the grasp of the crippling disease. Why is Pakistan failing miserably in its battle against polio despite it being declared a national emergency?

Some time ago in Karachi a school administration beat a polio team and restricted them from administering polio drops to the children. This was blatant savagery.

Moreover, two workers were killed during an anti-polio drive in Quetta. This all is a grim reminder of the fact that our polio campaigners are not safe. One can argue about the drastic decrease in attacks, but fewer attacks don’t make it a safe line of work.

While the federal and provincial governments are trying hard to entirely eliminate polio, the efforts are hampered by such incidents. Efforts should be accelerated to educate the people about the importance of polio vaccination for their children.

Scores of people have been killed in recent years in militant attacks on polio immunisation campaigns. Last year, police arrested two women for allegedly thrashing and manhandling a polio team in Multan. Similarly, a polio team was attacked in Bajaur district. At least three Levy personnel were injured when an improvised explosive device went off after coming in contact with their vehicle.

In January 2015 a suicide bombing in Quetta killed 15 people outside a vaccination centre in Quetta. The Pakistani Taliban and another militant group, Jundullah had claimed responsibility for the attack.

It is estimated that up to 80 per cent of our children have now been vaccinated against polio but the number needs to rise which is proving difficult because the holdouts are either located in remote parts of the country, are in the zones that are sceptical of the drives or constantly on the move. Add to that the constant threat of attacks and there is a real danger that the polio virus will persist for the foreseeable future.

This attack, as well as the host of recent attacks across Pakistan, should show that we cannot afford complacency in the fight against ignorance. More than 50 polio workers have been killed in the last five years. There is a dire need to reflect on our long war with poliovirus. The government needs to protect these workers risking their lives to save our children from the crippling disease.