The discovery of Type-1 Wild Poliovirus (WPV1) in 32 environmental samples taken this year raises some critical questions. Of the total, 22 samples were from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), of which 10 were reported from Bannu district alone. There were nine samples from Punjab, and one from Sindh.
An association of WPV1 with a polio case reported from North Waziristan was detected by genetic sequencing of the most recent positive sample obtained from Bannu. This shows that the Polio Eradication Programme is either not succeeding in its goals or has some serious flaws.
Even worse, there has been a lot of resistance as a result of the conflict between the state and various tribal factions, and the widespread mistrust among the population. In addition to campaign-related hoaxes, security personnel and polio workers are targeted and killed to force the govern-ment to cease military operations.
A police officer protecting a polio vaccination team in Balochistan’s Pishin district was fatally shot during a week-long campaign to immunise children. In the last 15 months, there have been 20 such attacks reported, indicating the need for more protection for polio workers.
Sadly, no one will benefit from a polio outbreak. The people, particularly families and children, will suffer a great deal. To stop such attacks, the state must first engage in negotiations with the opposition, even if that means making some compromises. The validity of these positive environmental samples must also be carefully considered.
The administration ought to think about including sewage and municipal waste treatment in its plan to eradicate viruses that have already spread to various areas.
Since the outbreak and spread appear to be getting worse with time, prompt action in this regard is what is needed.