Let’s make Pakistan polio free

Published: January 24, 2012
Email

India is a recent example where no new polio case have been reported and the World Health Organization is considering declaring India a polio free country. PHOTO: AFP

With all this talk of anti-polio vaccination drives, I feel it is important to educate people about this disease.

What is polio?

Polio is a viral disease which can affect the spinal cord, causing muscle weakness and paralysis. The polio virus enters the body through the mouth, usually from hands contaminated with the stool of an infected person. This virus is more common in infants and young children, and occurs under conditions of poor hygiene.

Paralysis is prevalent and more severe when the infection occurs in older individuals. Polio spreads when the stool of an infected person is introduced into the mouth of another person through contaminated water or food (fecal-oral transmission). Oral transmission by way of an infected person’s saliva may account for some cases. Maintaining high levels of polio immunisation in society is the most helpful precautionary measure.

Pakistan and the rest of the world

Globally, a lot of work is being done to eradicate polio from all parts of the world, and in most countries no new polio cases have been reported.  These countries are now declared polio free. India is a recent example where no new polio case were reported last year, and the World Health Organisation is considering declaring India a polio free country.

This is good news for the region, and now it is Pakistan’s turn to get serious about the eradication of this menace. Polio is an epidemic and its virus travels fast. Thus, a patient suffering from polio is hazardous to the surroundings too. For the long-term safety of India from this endemic, it is advisable that the government of India also cooperate with Pakistan for polio’s eradication. Both countries should work jointly for a polio free Pakistan in the coming years.

In addition to this, we should remove misgivings about polio drops prevailing in the country and ensure that teams administering polio drops reach all parts of the country. A recent statement by Sindh’s provincial health minister highlighted the fact that polio exists in Pakistan because children are undernourished. This height of illiteracy has led to the sad state of affairs of our country. A country which is the fifth largest milk producer in the world, one of the largest exporter of rice and also self sufficient in many other agriculture products can’t even feed its nation properly.

Here’s how

  • The five countries where polio exists all have low per capita income so we need to put pressure on the government to increase the per capita income of our people
  • Proper food should be provided to children so as to give every child a nutritious diet
  • School food programs should be introduced in schools operating in rural areas. These programs should also be monitored strictly to enhance children’s nutritional level
  • It should be made mandatory for members of legislative bodies to make serious efforts in their respective areas for polio eradication. If a polio case is detected in a constituency then membership of that legislator should be temporarily suspended
  • The task of administering polio drops should be given to trained personnel
  • Special incentives should be given to people of those districts where no polio case is reported for a considerable duration

Today, polio has been eradicated in most countries.  It only exists in five countries of the world and sadly Pakistan is one of them. Our country has a population of 180 million whereas India’s population is more than 1 billion. If they can become polio free, we can too. We need to take this as a challenge and cohesively work towards polio eradication.

Khurram Zia Khan

Khurram Zia Khan

The writer is the media manager of Asiatic Public Relations and tweets @KhurramZiaKhan (twitter.com/KhurramZiaKhan)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.