off record
Shaukat Ali Jawaid

Failure to control
Polio Viru


It is no less than a tragedy that Pakistan has so far failed to control Polio virus and it is likely to have serious consequences. In the absence of any effective monitoring and accountability, the result could not have been better. Yet another misfortune that we have is that we have “United States” as the so called friend of Pakistan and they continue to create problems for us under the disguise of this so called friendship.

There have always been strong suspecions that United States intelligence agencies use healthcare professionals, paramedics and staff of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) which are provided generous funding, for spying purposes and to achieve their hidden agenda. This suspicion became a reality with the case of Dr. Shakil Afridi who was used in the Osama case. It had a devastating effect as regards polio vaccination campaign. People in Khyber PK and Tribal areas of FATA not only stopped cooperating with the Polio teams but many of the innocent healthcare professionals in general and Lady Health Workers in particular also lost their lives as these teams were fired at when they went to different areas in connection with the polio vaccination campaign.
The alleged export of polio virus to Egypt from the province of Sind in Pakistan is now being discussed in the WHO and at other international Forums. Government authorities must wake before it is too late and make sure that not only the polio teams are provided adequate protection but no child leaves Pakistan without having been administered polio drops. Reports by some of the NGOs who were involved in the Polio campaign in urban areas have reported excellent results as regards coverage of the child population since they had adequate monitoring, ensured accountability and also motivated the population at large where they were working taking the community leaders into confidence along with incentives to the dedicated workers. This is the way forward and had this approach been adopted by the government authorities from the very beginning, we may have had much better results. However, when the officials sit in offices, field staff has no supervision and monitoring, one cannot expect better results. Sindh Health Minister Dr. Sagheer Ahmad has been making concerted efforts to improve polio coverage in the province but the government needs to do much more.
The government of Khyber PK also needs to intensify its efforts as regards polio vaccination and make sure that this campaign achieves its targets. The community leaders should be taken into confidence and their services utilized including those of teachers and religious leaders to convince the population at large that vaccination against communicable diseases including polio was in their own interest which will ensure better health for their children who will be saved from the dreadful complications and the resultant disability. Involvement of the Family Physicians in the immunization and vaccination campaigns can also be quite fruitful as they practice in the community, enjoy their trust and confidence. Healthcare professionals should also uphold professional ethics and desist from such unethical activities and becoming agent of foreign countries who use them for promoting their own agenda. Dr. Shakil Afridi episode is likely to have far reaching effects and it will take some time before we are able to forget it. For the time being, it has acted as a greatest set back to the polio campaign in Pakistan.{jcomments on}