660,000 children to get polio drops in KP

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhawa Health Department is planning to vaccinate about 660,000 children in seven districts of the province where Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) from North Waziristan Agency (NWA) have relocated in the wake of Operation Zarb-i-Azb.

Almost half of the numbers of youngsters who will be vaccinated are likely to be children displaced from NWA.

The Fata Disaster Management Authority (FDMA) data shows that the total number of IDPs so far registered with the authority is 787,888. Of these, the number of children is around 339,456, according to the FDMA data.

Talking to Dawn.com, Deputy Director EPI Programme Dr Raheem Khattak said that the NWA children have been at a higher risk as polio vaccination could not be carried out in the areas there since 2012.

“The moving population, mostly children have low immunity level, has also put the host population at risk. We are hoping to vaccinate some 660,000 host and IDPS children in seven districts of the province,” he said.

He said that North Waziristan had been a challenge for the authorities. “

Of the 88 polio cases in 2014, 60 are from the North Waziristan. Now an entire population has migrated and this is a chance to vaccinate them,” he added.

Five polio cases were recorded from Peshawar, one from Mardan, two are from Bannu and another five from South Waziristan Agency.

Dr Khattak informed that Bannu is the first point of entry and the IDPs movement and relocation is mostly through this district. “All union councils of Bannu will be covered under the programme which can be termed as ‘Sehat ka Insaaf 2’,” he said while referring health initiative of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf in KP.

He said that selected union councils in Dera Ismail Khan, Lakki Marwat, Hangu, Karak, Tank and Kohat would also be covered under the drive.

To a query about the exact number of children likely to be vaccinated, he said segregating locals and tribal children would be difficult.

The provincial health department will complete polio vaccination during Ramazan in five phases, Dr Khattak said. He added that two phases have already been completed and the third one will start from July 12.

He further informed that measles campaigns and vaccinations for other diseases in these cities will also start from August 4, soon after the Eidul Fitr and will cover all the host and guest children.

As most of the tribal population is on the move, the polio virus is circulating between the Fata and the KP cities bordering the tribal areas.

Dr Khattak said this is a golden opportunity given the fact that the authorities were facing a hard time in vaccinating children in NWA. Now, the same children who missed out on vaccination will be able to get polio drops, he said.