Does Polio In Pakistan Pose A Global Threat?

The euphoria in the Polio programme turned out to be pretty ephemeral with the resurgence of Polio cases in North Waziristan, which now stands at 12 from the same district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, against one case in Afghanistan, the only second endemic country. The resurgence of cases in Malawi, Mozambique, the UK and now the US, which has been declared polio-free a decade ago, should raise alarm bells in the global polio eradication teams’ cosy rooms. A Polio case anywhere is a case everywhere, the virus doesn’t respect borders.

It is still a perplexing conundrum how countries like Somalia, South Sudan, Sierra Leone, DRC etc. with poorer health indicators, and dysfunctional health and governance systems could eradicate Polio but Pakistan despite being well ahead in all domains, is still struggling? Something is surely not working? The programme’s simplistic view is when children are missed for any reason the virus circulation is established and cases are all but a natural outcome. One can engineer any logic, any self-assurance but the case surge’s mirror shows serious flaws in the big scheme of things.

Of the many, the key reason that has surfaced – of very late though- is the hidden refusals i.e. when the teams- for lack of motivation- and the community – for lack of conviction- collude on finger marking the children but not vaccinating; this is the programme faux paux. This scribe has pushed limits to advocate for curbing this but the programme then in self-proclaimed confidence turned a deaf ear to the advice. Despite the tantrum of the “New Communication strategy” there is visible unchartered territory that the programme needs to navigate.