Islamabad: Pakistan recorded 72 polio cases this year, compared to 58 for all of 2012, with the bulk of new infections registered in the lawless tribal areas, a WHO official said today.
Pakistan is one of only three countries where the crippling disease remains endemic. Officials said violence against vaccinators and suspicions about the polio vaccine were reasons for the increase in cases.
"Pakistan has reported 72 polio cases, which is highest in comparison to two other countries with the disease, as Nigeria has 50 cases and Afghanistan reported only nine during 2013," Elias Durry, emergency coordinator for the World Health Organisation (WHO)`s Polio Eradication Pakistan Programme, told reporters.
Last year, Pakistan had 58 polio cases while Nigeria had 110 and Afghanistan 31, according to a global update on cases of crippling disease.
The Pakistani Taliban and other militant groups have hampered efforts to immunise children, denouncing the vaccines as a "Western plot" to sterilise Muslims and a cover for spies.
Some vaccinators were abducted or killed by militants in recent months. Six polio cases have been reported in the eastern province of Punjab this year, six in Sindh in the south and 10 in northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The bulk of the infections - 50 - were in the lawless tribal areas along the Afghan border.
At least 260,000 children in North and South Waziristan had not been vaccinated against polio since July 2012. "We successfully immunised over 33 million children during the recent vaccination campaign while 2.3 million children were recorded missed during the campaign," Durry said.
He said that in most cases children were missed in the areas where the law and order situation was not favourable, and where vaccination teams faced security threats. Over 47,000 children missed vaccination because of parental refusals.