Jirga convinces families to immunize children against polio

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: Photo By News Lens Pakistan / Matiullah Achakzai
Pakistani health worker administering polio drops to child during anti polio campaign. : Photo By News Lens Pakistan / Matiullah Achakzai

Peshawar:  To cut down on number of refusal cases, the district administration in Peshawar, provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, has convinced 120 families immunize their children against polio after holding a Jirga (elders council) with them under a special eradication campaign.

“We are trying to convince the parents to get their children immunized,” Deputy Commissioner of Peshawar Riaz Mehsud told News Lens. Mehsud headed Jirga in the suburbs of Peshawar including Badaber, Adezai and Mathani.

The authorities, said Mehsud, have been able to bring down the number of refusal cases from  23000  plus to  8000. “We have arrested 471 persons who refused polio vaccinations under section-3 of the Maintenance of the Public Order (MPO).

Refusal cases have been reported from different areas in Peshawar and its suburbs. They relate to different reasons including religious constraints, suspicions that the drops cause impotency and rumours about the use of pig meat extracts in preparation of the polio vaccines – pork is not kosher in Islam.

Some of the parents who refused to immunize their children considered polio vaccine as a tool to check population in the Islamic countries by causing impotency. Experts believe that one of the reasons for refusal is the use of polio campaign by the alleged US spy Dr.Shakil Afridi to reach Osama Bin Laden compound in Abbotabad.

“We have provided religious edicts [regarding the authenticity of polio vaccines] to the parents issued by grand cleric of Saudi Arabia and they agreed to immunize their children,” said Mehsud.

Pakistan is among the only three countries including Nigeria and Afghanistan where existence of polio virus is an imminent threat to its spread in the entire world. A World Health Organization report released in September 2014 said that “nine out of every 10 children crippled  [by polio] live in Pakistan.”

Director WHO, Dr.Margaret Chan, has praised efforts made by Pakistan for eradication of polio virus from the region.

He said 178 cases of polio had been globally reported in 2014, of which 166 were from Pakistan. “This is dramatic though Pakistan has showed that despite the challenges, their children can also be reached through innovations and as sense of common purpose.”

According to WHO statistics there were total 327 cases of wild polio virus which has been reported from Pakistan in the year 2014 that has broken the 16 year old record of 300 in 1998. Of this, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas(Fata) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa recorded 179 and 69  cases respectively.

In 2015, a total of 16 cases have been recorded. Pakistan registered an all time low of 28 polio cases in 2005 that rose to 198 in 2011 and then a record outbreak in 2014.

According to health authorities, the anti-polio drive by the provincial government of KP under the “Sihat Ka Ittehad” campaign has shown positive results in Peshawar that is considered a hub of polio virus by WHO.

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