Islamabad: UNICEF on Tuesday warned that Pakistan
could be the world`s last polio reservoir standing in the way
of global eradication of the disease as 63 new polio cases
have been reported in the country this year.
Daniel Toole, UNICEF`s Regional Director for South Asia
who is in Pakistan to meet government and UN officials, has
emphasised the need to urgently improve local polio response,
vaccination outreach, management and accountability for
"We must ensure access to all children as specified in the
President`s National Emergency Action Plan for Polio
Eradication in Pakistan. We have a huge task ahead of us, and
we must build on lessons learned and act now," Toole said.
Since beginning of the year, Pakistan has continued to see
rising numbers of polio cases. In 2011, a total of 63 cases
were reported compared to 36 in the same period last year.
Balochistan province has reported 22 polio cases this
year, more than any other region in Pakistan.
The virus, which circulated in five high-risk districts in
Balochistan, has spread to districts previously not infected
for the past five years.
The militancy-hit tribal belt has reported 20 cases, Sindh
province has 14, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province has six, and
Gilgit-Baltistan has one case.
Punjab, with 60 per cent of Pakistan`s population, has not
reported any cases of polio this year and UNICEF said this was
a "major accomplishment that must be sustained".
The National Emergency Action Plan launched by President
Asif Ali Zardari in January identified the need to improve the
quality of implementation and programme management as key
risks for polio virus transmission.
Toole acknowledged that reaching every child with polio
vaccine is a challenge in Pakistan.
He emphasised that with "firm commitment from local
authorities, close follow-up, and by taking direct
responsibility for reducing the number of polio cases,
Pakistan can eradicate polio".
"It is now vital for leaders at provincial, district and
union councils to be fully accountable and implement the
vision of the government," Toole said.
Eradicating polio from Pakistan depends on delivering oral
polio vaccine to every child, including the most vulnerable
The next polio vaccination campaign will be held during
September 19-21, targeting 16.5 million children in districts
at highest risk for continued circulation of the polio virus.
The spread of polio in Pakistan affects Pakistani
travellers, particular those going to Saudi Arabia for Haj,
who must now show proof of polio vaccination on entry.