Army to take over security of polio teams in KP

ISLAMABAD: In a major development, the Pakistan army was asked to assist the civilian government by taking over security of polio eradiction teams in militancy-hit Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

A meeting was held Wednesday at the General Headquarter in Rawalpindi to coordinate details of the campaign with particular emphasis on security and access to affected areas.

Representatives from the World Health Organisation (WHO), and representatives of the federal and KP government and the FATA secretariat attended the meeting.

The forum was informed about the current polio situation in the country and challenges being faced for smooth conduct of polio campaigns.

“On the directives of the prime minister of Pakistan, Army has been asked to support National Polio Eradication Campaign particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” said a statement from the ISPR issued shortly after the meeting.

The meeting also expressed the urgency for polio eradication imitative to save future generations.

The participants emphasised the need to take all necessary measures including improving the security situation to make Pakistan a polio-free country.

Pakistan is one of only three countries where the crippling poliovirus remains endemic. The country may face international travelling bans as it continues to house to the highest number of polio cases worldwide

Efforts to stamp out the disease have been hampered by opposition from militant groups, who see vaccination campaigns as a cover for espionage, as well as long-running rumours about the drops causing infertility.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and adjoining tribal districts, where Taliban and al Qaeda linked militants have hideouts, are particular polio hotspots.

Last year, the WHO declared Peshawar, the capital of KP province, the world’s “largest reservoir” of endemic polio and called for urgent action to boost vaccination.

According to the WHO, almost every polio case reported in 2013 in Pakistan could be linked genetically to strains of the virus circulating in Peshawar.