The anti-polio campaign in Sindh began on Monday. It was inaugurated at the Jannat Gul Hospital in Gadap, Karachi by Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah.
“Union Council 4 Gadap, with a preponderance of migrant Afghan and Pashtun settlements, has had the most polio cases in Sindh,” he said. “We pledge to keep our children healthy. We pledge to keep our children safe.”
Government officials say Gadap is one of the most high-risk areas for polio in Sindh and in the country.
“The reason is that it has a lot of frequent travelling from Afghanistan and the north of Pakistan. There is a danger that they spread the virus with them,” an official associated with the Sindh Emergency Operations Centre told SAMAA Digital.
He added that historically Gadap has been notorious for polio. There have been some improvements in the recent past—there hasn’t been a case from the area this year—but the virus spreads from there, he said.
Due to repeated travelling, it is also difficult to vaccinate every child and inevitably there are missed children. There are also pockets where there are refusals, the official explained.
“They are based on three reasons. One is repeated campaigns. People question why their children are being given drops every month. The other is demand-based. They say they don’t have electricity, water and demand those facilities first. And the third is misconceptions.”
However, the Sindh chief minister said the government had met the local community and had been assured of their support during the campaign.
“I want to assure the public that the polio vaccine is completely safe, we have all taken it so please vaccinate your children. We must control polio before we have travel restrictions. This is our collective responsibility,” Shah said.
He said that after the emergence of 16 new cases in the province, he has changed the strategy by involving all the elected representatives, from union council heads to provincial assembly members. “Our health minister had given a briefing to all the assembly members and requested them to involve themselves personally so that we can defeat polio,” he said.
Sindh Minister for Health and Population Welfare Sindh Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho inaugurated the polio campaign in Shaheed Benazirabad. She visited THQ hospitals, EPI centres, and Basic Health Units in Nawabshah, Sanghar and Naushero Feroz for the inauguration.
Sindh has recorded 16 polio cases this year, of which six are from Karachi, two from Hyderabad, two from Larkana, two from Jamshoro, two from Mirpurkhas, one from Shaheed Benazirabad and one from Sujawal.