Media one feels takes pleasure in projecting negative image of Pakistan-Dr. Salah

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Seminar on Polio Crisis in Pakistan at UMDC

Media one feels takes pleasure in projecting
negative image of Pakistan-Dr. Salah

Pakistan is capable of overcoming polio crisis and
we need to work together to close this tap for ever

KARACHI: Media in general and electronic media in particular one feels, takes pleasure in projecting negative image of Pakistan. Any little disturbance in the country anywhere is immediately highlighted as breaking news and the television channels keep on showing their images for hours as if nothing else is happening in the country. There is lot of good things happening all over Pakistan at the same time but it does not interest media and these issues are never highlighted.  Pakistan is capable of overcoming the polio crisis and we need to work together to close this tap for ever. This was stated by Dr.Salah Mohammad Tumsah, WHO Representative for Polio eradication in Pakistan. He was speaking at a seminar on Polio Crisis in Pakistan organized by the Dept. of Community Health Sciences of United Medical and Dental College at the UMDC Campus on December 9th 2014.

Future of Pakistani children, he said was at risk till every child is protected. There are three types of polio viruses i.e. Type-1, Type-2 and Type-3. While Type two and three have been eradicated; only Type-1 is still there. Tracing the history he said in 1957 there were 57,000 cases of polio reported in United States. In 1988 there were 3, 50,000 cases of paralytic. WHO started polio eradication campaign and in 1999 four hundred fifty million children were immunized. Pakistan has 35 million children aged under five which is our target while India which had a target of 180 million children less than five years of age has successfully eradicated polio, we in Pakistan has failed so far for various reasons. In 2014, only four cases of polio were reported from FATA. There were five cases from Baluchistan, eleven from KPK, thirteen from Sindh and only three from Punjab. Until November 2014 only 36 cases were reported from North and South Waziristan. Last polio case in NW was on September 16th 2014. We had some progress as in 2012 only 58 cases of polio were reported while in 2013 the figure went up to 93 and in 2014 it further increased to 257. The situation is worrisome but it is not at all hopeless, he remarked.

Speaking about Karachi Dr. Salah said that there were nine cases in 2011, no case in 2012, eight cases in 2013 and 23 cases in 2014. Killing of polio workers and unreachable areas in some parts of Karachi has made the things worse. Gaddap Town in Karachi is the main reservoir.  Some of the challenges which we face include under served mobile population, religious based refusal and insecurity which has complicated the situation. There is fear among first line polio workers.  Fourteen areas of eight Union Councils out of 188 UCs in Karachi have no basic facilities. We now intend to use IPV in MCH camps, he added.

Earlier Dr. Syed Sanowar Ali highlighted the public health importance of Polio and said that only thee countries in the world Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan have so far failed to eradicate polio. We need good intentions, dedication, sincerity, hard work and competency to eradicate polio, he added.

Dr. Saira Tahir discussed virology of Polio. Some countries she said has incomplete polio coverage. In 1984 polio virus breakout occurred in Finland. Polio mostly affects children under five years and it used to have great morbidity and mortality particularly in developing tropical countries. Humans are the only known reservoir of polio virus.  Almost 95% of cases have no symptoms while 3-4% may complain of fever, sore throat and headache etc.  Muscle weakness of lower extremities is seen   the most. Flaccid paralysis accounts for 0.1% of polio cases and serology is very rarely used for diagnosis.

Prof. Nighat Nisar from DUHS discussed Herd immunity which means protecting the whole community from the disease by immunizing the critical mass of the community. In human herd there are certain people who need to be vaccinated. Every vaccinated person adds to the protection of the community and spread of disease is limited. Polio, she said, has 80-86% threshold. We had only 268 cases this year which were confined to eleven districts. With dedication and motivation we can overcome this crisis, she remarked.

Dr. Sheikh Tanveer Ahmad from HANDS NGO talked about community perception of Polio. He stated that just 22% of Pakistan population has proper sanitation facilities and pure water supply was also depressing. In 1980 we had made tremendous progress in eradication of these diseases but later  funds earmarked for Polio were diverted to HIV AIDS by the West as it was their priority, hence the situation deteriorated.  CIAs use of a Pakistani Doctor Dr. Shakil Afridi to nab Osama working as a Polio eradication team member also made the situation worse which further deteriorated.

Prof. Seema Mumtaz HOD Community Health Sciences at UMDC said that UNICEF, WHO, CDC and Rotary have played a significant role in eradication of Polio in the world. At present the situation is not good but we can make it safe for every one by working hard with determination, she stated.

Dr. Durre Naz from Sindh EPI programme said that there are 1489 EPI centers in Sindh, 1873 healthcare facilities, 2460 vaccinators, 16262 Health Workers are involved in EPI. 561 healthcare facilities have no EPI center. Three hundred eight Union Councils have over 80% coverage, 131 NGOs are working in the province and we hope to add Rota Virus to EPI very soon. During the year 2014 she gave the figure of polio cases as 270 which included 23 from Karachi, four from FATA. She also talked about real time monitoring and accountability. Healthy communication strategy is needed while political interference was a great hurdle. We also need to start some reward system for healthcare workers she remarked.

Dr. Mazhar Ali Khamisani highlighted the importance of improving the routine immunization and creating awareness in the community.  During the panel discussion Mr. Shaukat Ali Jawaid supported the views of Dr. Salah by saying that media in Pakistan lacks professionalism and does not follow profession ethics which was very unfortunate. That is why it was fast losing its credibility. Those working on Health issues lack even the core knowledge of basic health issues. Proper storage of vaccine, arresting the killers of polio workers and giving them exemplary punishment were also highlighted. Dr. Salah said that they intend to open Emergency Operation Center for Polio and efforts will be made to cover every house and the entire population.

 Brig. Prof. Khalid Hassan Mahmood Dean of UMDC in his concluding remarks said that we need multiple directional approaches to eradicate polio. TV channels, he said, discuss issues which are of no interest to the common man. Government commitment is needed to succeed in eradication of polio, he added. Later the guest speakers and organizers were presented mementoes by Prof. Surg. Faiz Mohammad Khan and Dr. Bilal Faiz.