The polio virus spreads to other parts of the country from the marked districts.—AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: As many as 12 high-risk polio districts have been identified across the country to put them under special focus during the low-transmission season starting from September.

Special meetings of the national and international health experts, provincial authorities and the National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC) will be held from Monday (today) to remove the deficiencies before the start of the season.

Dr Rana Safdar, the head of the NEOC, told Dawn that the international Institute for Disease Modeling collaborated with the government departments to compile data and point out the high-risk districts.

Also read-Editorial: Polio and Pakistan

“As many as four districts (agencies) in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) have been declared the high-risk areas. These districts are: FR Bannu, Khyber, North Waziristan and South Waziristan.”

He said three districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – Bannu, Peshawar and Tank – had also been declared high risk. In Sindh, Baldia Town and Gadap Town have been declared sensitive while Killa Abdullah, Pishin and Quetta in Balochistan have been declared as the high risk.

These areas will remain under special focus during low-transmission season starting from September

Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq in a statement said: “We are on track to interrupt transmission but 12 districts represent the last reservoirs for polio and unless we work together, success is not guaranteed.”

It may be mentioned that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif recently approved the National Emergency Action Plan for Polio Eradication (2015-16) which envisages measurable targets toward the ultimate goal of polio eradication in the country. The NEOC has been coordinating with the provincial and district polio eradication teams to develop targeted national, provincial and priority district operational plans.

Ms Farooq said the number of children paralysed by wild poliovirus in the first half of 2015 was nearly a quarter of what it was at the same time last year (28 vs 114 as of 18 July 2015).

“We have never had a better opportunity to stop the transmission of this terrible disease. We must do everything possible to support the frontline workers to reach and vaccinate every single child,” she said.

Dr Safdar said an emergency action plan for polio was made every year after which a federal guideline was issued.

“This year, we have decided to adopt a scientific approach to eradicate the poliovirus. Data of all the union councils and districts from all over the county has been collected and categorised on the basis of the polio cases and the vulnerability to the poliovirus,” he added.

“This time our focus will be on eradicating the virus from high-risk districts because the virus spreads to other parts of the country from these districts. International and national experts have been engaged to resolve the capacity issues before the first low transmission campaign starting from September 14,” he said.

As many as nine polio campaigns will be held during the low transmission season (September to May 2016) to eradicate the poliovirus, he said.

Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2015

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