Pakistan may be declared a 'non- endemic country for polio virus' by next year, a UNICEF health official said today citing over 85 per cent reduction in recorded polio cases in 2015, especially in the country's restive tribal areas.
Pakistan, which along with Afghanistan remains the only place where the crippling disease is still rife, registered only 36 polio cases so far this year, as compared to 306 cases recorded last year.
Year 2014 is considered by health experts as the darkest year for Pakistan polio eradication programme.
"Efforts to eradicate the disease have been severely hindered in recent years by militants who attacked immunisation teams and polio workers were not allowed in certain areas for administering drops," said Dr Muhammad Johar, Unicef Team Leader for Polio eradication in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
"The progress and achievement in polio eradication efforts has raised the confidence of health teams and Pakistan has set the target of complete obstruction of polio transmission in Pakistan by May 2016," Johar said, adding, "In May 2016, Pakistan may be declared as Non-Endemic country for polio virus."
"Around 292,000 children from Khyber Agency, North Waziristan and South Waziristan Agencies were missed from immunisation in 2014 due to inaccessibility of health teams in these area," said Aqeel Ahmad, Media Liaison Officer, Polio Emergency Operation Center (EOC), FATA.
While in 2015, only 16,000 children have been missed in the country which is highly appreciable, Aqeel added.
This achievement became possible with the support of the military, especially due to improvement in security after launching of military operation Zarb-e-Azb, said Aqeel.
Johar also gave credit for reduction in polio cases to better security arrangements after launching of military operations in North Waziristan Agency and other parts of FATA including Khyber Agency.
The main reason behind the rise in number of polio cases between 2005 to 2014 was inaccessibility of health teams in tribal areas where hundreds of thousands of children were missed from immunisation resulting in contamination of disease, Johar said.