Pakistan and Afghanistan face a rise in polio cases

Polio cases in Pakistan and Afghanistan are on a rise due to unchecked borders

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Polio

The unmonitored movement of people across the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan have threatened the efforts to eradicate polio from the two countries. The year’s first cases of the virus are recorded in the volatile region. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative has said that people travelling through the unchecked crossings is believed to be one of the major reasons behind the spread of the disease in the area.

Reports say that the countries Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are the only three countries in the world where polio remains endemic. The year’s first polio case of the wild poliovirus in Pakistan was reported in January 2019 and was reported by the Bajaur Agency in the federally administered tribal area, bordering Afghanistan. The virus has also been found in the border towns of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.

While the border areas continue to remain the main source of concern, some of the cases have also been reported in Punjab province in January 2019. The Polio Eradication program started off in 1994 and since then the virus cases have been consistently reported along the 2,430 km stretch of the border from the main towns and cities to the remote villages. The worst outbreak of polio was reported in Pakistan in 2014 when 202 cases had surfaced. The government had then blamed the Taliban to ban the immunizations and launching attacks on the vaccination teams.

The efforts by the Global Polio Eradication initiative is supported by the World Health Organization, Rotary International, Unicef and the NGOs along with the national governments of polio affected countries and have also yielded results. Since 2015 the number of cases have been steadily declining. The Pakistan government reported that there were 54 reports of polio virus in 2015 which was followed by 20 in 2016 and eight in 2017. But there was an increase in the number in 2018 when dozens of cases were reported throughout the country and 11 of them had some from the border regions.

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