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The Fight to End Polio in Pakistan

Polio in PakistanAs one of only three countries that is still threatened by the poliovirus, Pakistan is continuing to fight against this devastating disease. Despite its threat, however, Pakistan has made incredible progress in eradicating polio for good. Leading the fight to end polio in Pakistan is the World Health Organization (WHO), which has initiated many effective vaccination campaigns.

Individuals in Pakistan are at a high risk for contracting polio during what is called the “high season” – the period between June and September, where temperatures are high and the polio virus is active. The initiatives to end polio focus on prevention during the “low season,” when polio is practically inactive. This strategic planning is meant to prepare the people and work ahead of the virus.

During low season in 2016 and 2017, five nationwide vaccination campaigns were run by the WHO, with 250,000 trained polio workers going door-to-door to vaccinate children. By the end of May 2017, over 38 million children under the age of five had been vaccinated against polio.

The vaccination workers were able to target the high-risk populations by taking innovative approaches, such as employing community-based vaccination – this made it easier to reach tribal populaces. These workers also used mobile strategies in order to reach high-risk nomadic populations.

While the WHO has vaccinated 92 percent of targeted children, it has yet to reach the desired goal of 95 percent, which is the figure needed to consider polio eradicated. However, much progress has been made in the past nine months, with two high-risk regions making drastic inclines in vaccination numbers. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region increased from an 84 percent vaccination rate to a 95 percent vaccination rate; Sindh went from a mere 77 percent to 93 percent.

Recorded cases of polio in Pakistan have reached a new low, dropping from 306 in 2014 to 20 in 2016. So far in 2017, there have only been three cases of polio. It is possible that by the end of this year, polio could be considered eradicated in Pakistan thanks to the significant progress and efforts by the WHO. While a small percentage of the population must still be reached in order to completely get rid of polio in Pakistan, the vaccination efforts have been nothing short of extraordinary.

Kelly Hayes

Photo: Flickr