Pakistan is one of the few countries in the world where polio remains endemic. The lack of proper governance and accountability, together with local groups opposing vaccination, are jeopardising efforts to rid the country of this disease.
In most countries, polio is now a memory. The developed world had largely eliminated it by the 1970s and many poor countries soon followed suit. Three decades ago, the world saw an estimated 400,000 polio cases a year. Thanks to a cheap and effective vaccine, administered by two drops into a child’s mouth and washed down with dollops of public and private money, the annual number of cases worldwide is approximately 1,000. The government is again asking religious scholars to help educate people who refuse to allow their children to receive the oral polio vaccine.
The World Health Organisation thinks that over 200,000 Pakistani children have missed their polio vaccinations in the past couple of years. The worst-affected areas are Balochistan and Fata — both regions have issues of law and order. Southern Sindh also has seen several cases and it was perhaps linked to the fact that in the past few years it has been ravaged by floods at least twice.
So, while the rest of the world is moving forward on this very important public health issue, we seem to be going backward. Who is to be blamed for this? The government or society?