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A matter of life and death

Afghanistan and its neighboring Pakistan remained the only two countries where crippling disease of polio is prevalent. Nigeria last year announced that polio is no longer an endemic in the West African country. The World Health Organization informed that Nigeria and Africa as a whole are now closer to being certified polio-free. It warned that polio remains endemic in Afghanistan and Pakistan and that as long as the disease exists anywhere, it’s a threat to children. The two countries should work jointly to fight polio which left a large number of children in an uncertain situation in the two neighboring states. Fighting polio is a win-win situation for both. They should join to make sure that children are not deprived of two drops of vaccine as it is the matter of life and death.

However efforts are under way to fight polio as Japan pledged $15.6 million to grant kids life-saving vaccines and help to prevent the spread of other vaccine-preventable diseases in Afghanistan. Previously Pakistani media reported that a three-member delegation from the Afghan national polio team paid visit to Pakistan to monitor anti-polio drive. The Head of Pakistan’s Emergency Operations Centre said that one type of virus, R4B5C, had been traveling from Nangarhar to Khyber Agency and other parts of the two countries. To be mentioned that last year, 19 polio cases were detected in Afghanistan where eight cases were registered in Nangarhar, four in Farah, two in Kunar, as many in Helmand and one each in Nimroz, Herat and Faryab provinces. The sole reason behind polio incidence are insecurity and regular travel of people to Pakistan. The disease is also endemic in Pakistan as based on media report, 36 polio cases were recorded last year. The two last remaining polio-endemic countries should improve high quality vaccination and overcome administrative problems and non-availability of vaccination at the border points. Both states should come up to the fore and work to a mechanism to monitor the population movement from Afghanistan to Pakistan as it is of utmost importance to end the tumbling block to control circulation of polio virus in both countries.

It is stark fact that Afghanistan and Pakistan could not succeed in anti-polio campaign unless addressing the root cause which is insecurity. Large number of polio campaign workers were killed in Afghanistan and Pakistan by illegal armed groups. They were killed while on duty. They committed no crime but to save children from crippling. No security means zero-possibility to declare Afghanistan and Pakistan as polio-free states. Thus, sincere approach by both sides is very much crucial to kill a disease which is eating the future blood of the nations.

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