It is 2018 and it is upsetting, to say the least, that Polio is still crippling children in our country. Just a day ago, the second case of this year was reported in Balochistan. According to Dawn News an 18- month-old girl, Bibi Farzana, has been diagnosed with the virus that usually results in paralysis in its young victims. The first case from Balochistan this year was reported in April. The epidemic had reached the Kuli area in south Quetta, in the area of Safar Ali Baloch, polio coordinator Dr, Aziz confirmed. A day ago the virus hit Dukki district in the same province.
Just a day following the first case, a nationwide polio eradication campaign was launched. Nearly 260,000 volunteers spread across the country to administer polio drops to all children, five years of age and younger.
While the drop from 306 cases being reported in 2014 to 2 being reported so far into 2018 is a considerable feat, it still remains that no child should suffer from the terrible disease. It is isn’t as if the government is sitting idly and letting this happen. Efforts have been made to directly tackle the root cause, i.e. the virus itself.
However, certain side problems are coming in the way of complete polio eradication.
One of the major reasons is violence against polio vaccination volunteers. In January, gunmen killed a mother-and-daughter vaccination team working in Balochistan. And in a quite possibly similarly motivated crime three years earlier, 15 people were killed in a bombing by the Pakistani Taliban outside a polio vaccination center in Balochistan. In another incident, Nida and Sahar, two volunteers at a camp in Rawalpindi’s Fauji Slum, were attacked by a man. Nida was hit in the head with a gun and her bag was snatched away. Violence like this against vaccinators is apparently at a rise in such high-risk areas affected by polio.
What is the reason for this violence?
The answer to this is as age-old as it gets in Pakistan. Religious extremism is one of the main reason behind such bouts of violence. Several protests against vaccinations also ensue in high-risk areas. Clerics in these areas deem the polio vaccination to be a work of the evil west, who they claim are trying to make Muslims infertile. Some have even gone too far to conspire that polio vaccination campaigns are just a trailing legacy of CIA operatives trying to find Bin Laden in Pakistan.
The hurdles being faced towards 100% eradication are two-fold.
Extremists continue to wreak havoc in the battle between religion and science. Whereas, any logical person will argue that the two don’t necessarily have to be an affront to one another. A lack of education in the masses generally leads to a blind trust in clerics, which is what gives them popularity in the first place. Moreover, the festering problem of improper sewage maintenance in high-risk areas just adds to the possibility of another case. Even if one child’s parents refuse treatment, the virus can travel through the sewage system and become a problem for others.
This is a problem as dire as they get in terms of health troubles faces by the nation. The crippling disease of polio renders an absolutely healthy child potentially paralyzed for life, or in worst cases may even result in death. More needs to be done than just administering polio drops to children. Greater security generally, a crackdown on extremist elements, and a thorough drive to create a more hygienic environment are some things the government must prioritize for the sake of this country’s future and its children.
*Feature Image Source: deepaknammaarea.blogspot.ca*