ISLAMABAD - The World Health Organisation (WHO) denounced the running of a fake vaccination campaign to hunt down Osama Bin Laden by CIA that put all immunisation campaigns in Pakistan under suspicion.
WHO Representative in Pakistan Dr Ni’ma Saeed Abid condemned the fake vaccination campaign at a press conference held Friday on Polio Eradication Initiative in Pakistan in light of the recommendations of the recently held Ulema Summit in Cairo.
He said the polio eradication programme is fully owned and implemented by the Government of Pakistan in collaboration with other national and international partners including WHO, and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and that fake campaign was an altogether different campaign and polio partners were not a part of that campaign.
He strongly reaffirmed that the public health programmes should be absolutely neutral and condemnd the use of any health intervention or initiative for any purpose other than the promotion and protection of health.
Dr Ni’ma Abid during the press briefing read out a statement that was released by the senior Islamic scholars from different parts of the Islamic world after the consultation in Cairo on March 7.
The scholars confirmed that the polio vaccine is safe, that is necessary to eradicate polio from the remaining three Muslim countries and that Muslims are obliged to vaccinate and protect their children.
They denounced the attacks on health workers, facilities and services as action against Islamic principals and teachings. They also proposed the establishment of an Islamic Advisory Group to build ownership and solidarity for polio eradication with the Islamic Fiqh Academy.
Pakistan remains one of only three countries in the world that have endemic poliomyelitis alongside Afghanistan and Nigeria. According to the WHO Representative, Pakistan saw great progress in 2012 reducing the number of cases by more than 71 per cent from 198 in 2011 to 58 last year.
Infected districts too were down to 28 from 60 in 2011. There have so far been five polio cases in 2013: Karachi, Sindh; Bannu, KP; Malakand, KP; Mardan, KP; and Mianwali, Punjab.
But the worrisome fact is that since July 2012, 240,000 children have not been immunised in North and South Waziristan. Though so far no outbreak of the disease has occurred, if the situation continues like this, there can be a polio outbreak in the region, cautioned the WHO Representative.
Polio transmission is now concentrated in reservoirs/core endemic areas: Central Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), FATA, high risk towns of Karachi, and Quetta Block (Killa Abdullah, Pishin and Quetta).
In the initial months of 2013, wild poliovirus has been detected in environmental samples of sewage water in Peshawar, Karachi, Quetta, Hyderabad and Faisalabad. And poliovirus originating from Pakistan caused a serious outbreak in China in 2011; and in early 2013, poliovirus from Sukkur, Sindh was detected in sewage water in Egypt.
He said that vaccination coverage in December and January campaigns was generally low but February and March campaigns will be key to the success of polio eradication efforts in 2013.
He regretted that the health agency has not been informed about the investigation into the killings of polio vaccination team members by the government nor it has any information who was behind these attacks that were a major set back for the eradication efforts.
During the vaccination campaigns 15 health workers including two police officials were shot dead in various parts of the country.