The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday announced that environmental samples from a key area in Peshawar have shown no signs of the wild polio virus for the first time in one and a half years, terming it ‘a massive stride’ in the fight for a polio-free Pakistan.
“After a long gap of 1.5 Years, the Sewage Water Environmental Sample collected from Shaheen Muslim Town in #Peshawar has shown NO presence of Wild Poliovirus,” the WHO said.
It said authorities collect and evaluate the sewage samples every month from 59 locations throughout Pakistan.
“This sample from Peshawar was collected on 10th April 2019. This result shows the impact of good quality vaccination in Peshawar and that #VaccinesWork,” it added.
Samples from the drain in Shaheen Muslim Town hold significance as the drain collects sewerage water from 18 union councils known for transmitting polio virus in Peshawar.
The union councils, identified by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, are known for chronic refusals to immunisation due to strong opposition by some circles.
The polio virus, which invades the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis within hours, spreads rapidly among children, especially in unsanitary conditions and areas where health care is limited.
The disease can be prevented with vaccination, but efforts to eradicate the disease in Pakistan have been undermined by opposition from some conservative locals and extremists, who claim immunisation is a foreign ploy to sterilise Muslim children or a cover for Western spies.
The announcement from the WHO comes as the polio eradication program in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa faces a renewed threat in the form of rumours and scaremongering.
On Monday, a mob of locals set fire to Peshawar’s Mashokhel Hospital following rumours that around 40 children had fallen sick after being administered anti-polio drops.
The attempt to sabotage the countrywide vaccination drive was exposed when it was revealed that a group of conspirators faked the illness and hospitalisation of the children to spread panic and misinformation about the polio campaign.
However, according to reports, the polio vaccination campaign in many areas of the province remained halted on Tuesday as mass hysteria persisted following the rumours, leading to refusal rate in thousands.