The province recorded 8 cases compared to one last year
As the people across the globe observe the World Polio Day, Sindh continues to grapple with the disease. Eight polio cases have been recorded in the province so far this year.
Last year one case surfaced in the province from Karachi, out of a total of 12 cases across the country.
This year, there have been four cases in Karachi, two in Hyderabad and one each in Larkana and Jamshoro. Many environmental and social factors are behind the increase in cases, experts say.
The whole country has seen an alarming rise with 76 cases reported so far. Sindh has also suffered because of people travelling to the province from areas where the virus is found in the environment.
“There are cases of polio this year as environment samples tested positive across the country and the virus has been travelling back and forth,” said Sindh Minister for Health and Population Welfare Dr Azra Pechuho on World Polio Day.
The health minister said communities resist repeated vaccination and many people use the lack of civic infrastructure and basic facilities as a pretext to do so.
“We have opened multiple EPI centres, mother and child health care centres and experimental dispensaries to cater to groups in high-risk areas for polio,” Dr Pechuho said.
“We are also trying to improve the nutritional status of children and the hygiene conditions in these areas. With the help of partners we have also set up water filtration facilities and other WASH (UNICEF’s water, sanitation and hygiene programme) interventions are being planned. We intend to carry on this practice and expand it.”
To eliminate the polio virus from the environment, there needs to be vaccine coverage of 95%. This is challenging as Sindh has nine million children under the age of five. Karachi is the most populated city with the highest proportion of vulnerable children: 2.4 million.
This seems to be why more cases have been reported from Karachi.
“Karachi is a high-risk area for polio,” an official associated with the Sindh Emergency Operations Centre told SAMAA Digital.
The city’s East and West districts are considered priority zones, with special emphasis on Gadap, Baldia and Orangi Town, he said.
“This is because of tribal movement in these areas. People living here travel between Karachi, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan,” the official said.
Another reason is the poor infrastructure in these areas with open drains where the virus thrives, he added.
Routine immunisation is also low in these neighbourhoods, according to information available with the EOC. Elaborating on the reason behind it, an official said it was because of low health-seeking behaviour of parents.
Parents needed to actively take their children to get vaccinated. That was the only way to achieve herd immunity, the experts repeated.
There were two polio cases recorded in Hyderabad this year as well, as the children missed immunisation campaigns.
The government says that anti-polio drives will run in the province from December all the way to June. If that is completed successfully then environmental samples will also be negative for the virus, paving the way for the country to be polio-free.