ISLAMABAD: Pakistani health authorities said on Friday two more wild polio cases had been reported from the country’s North Waziristan tribal area, leaving a young boy and girl paralyzed.
Both children are aged 18-months-old and belong to Mir Ali Town in North Waziristan, the Ministry of Health said.
Young children under the age of five are considered extremely vulnerable to polio, but can be protected against its lifelong impact by building immunity through vaccination.
Most people residing in conservative Pakistan’s tribal areas consider the polio vaccination a Western campaign aimed at sterilizing the country’s population. In 2012, the local Taliban ordered a ban on immunization against polio in Pakistan’s western tribal areas. Hundreds of polio workers have been killed in Pakistan in the line of duty.
Pakistan and Afghanistan remain the only two countries in the world where polio is still endemic.
“Both cases were confirmed by the Pakistan National Polio Laboratory at the National Institute of Health, Islamabad on Thursday, 26 May. This is the sixth case in North Waziristan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, this year,” the health ministry said in a statement.
“These children will struggle for the rest of their lives because of the pain of disabilities caused by polio. I urge the people of Pakistan to vaccinate your children,” Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel said in a statement.
Pakistan reported its first polio case this year on April 22, when a 15-month-old boy from the Mir Ali area of North Waziristan was found infected with the virus. The case was reported after a gap of over a year.
The health ministry said the southern districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, which include North and South Waziristan, Dera Ismail Khan, Bannu, Tank and Lakki Marwat, are at the highest risk of the wild poliovirus.
While no human transmission has been reported outside North Waziristan, two positive environmental samples between April and May were reported from Bannu.
“All children suffering from wild polio are being offered rehabilitation services but regardless of the support the government provides, there is a cure to polio. The only way to protect children is to give them repeated doses of the polio vaccine,” Federal Health Secretary Aamir Ashraf Khawaja said.
“The Pakistan Polio Programme has conducted emergency campaigns in the area, while children are administered the vaccine at all entry and exit points from southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to control the spread of the virus,” Dr Shahzad Baig, Coordinator, National Emergency Operations Centre, said.
“The programme is working relentlessly to control the spread of wild polio, but we need the support of parents and caregivers to succeed in our mission of a polio-free Pakistan.”