THE MENACE OF POLIO THAT REFUSES TO GO AWAY

Organized efforts were started in late 50s to eradicate Polio from the world. In around fifty years, the world has seen a time when it has been eradicated from almost the entire world except for few countries. Pakistan is one of those countries which had reached near elimination of Polio, but unfortunately an outbreak of this lethal disease is witnessed in the last few years. Still efforts are being made for elimination but these unfortunately these efforts are not satisfactory and need more governmental and social attentions.

Dr Tanveer Zubari is the president of Federation of Islamic Medical Associations (FIMA). The organisation is an umbrella body of Muslim medical organizations around the globe. It has got 46 members countries and it holds annual convention every year. FIMA has a huge database of very dedicated doctors from all over the world and there are almost 50000 doctors in its circle. In an exclusive conversation with Sunday Plus he highlighted the outbreak of Polio in our country which has lot repercussions of national and international level.

Polio is endemic and a viral disease which has no treatment so far. Who so ever acquire this disease has either to be paralyzed all of his life or he has to suffer critical illness and a few even die of this disease. So there is a global concern that Polio should be eliminated.

Talking about the outbreak of Polio in Pakistan, he said, “There are three countries in the world where Polio is still present and these countries are Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. Unfortunately these are the Muslim majority countries. Recently, there has been an outbreak of Polio in Muslim populated area of Kenya and Somalia. Rest of the world is very close to the end of Polio. So the issue or the challenge for the rest of the world is that Polio is still present in couple of these countries which are exporting this disease to the other part of the world. Its precedent is that in 1985, polio was exported from Saudi Arabia to 23 countries of the world,” he said.

When inquired about the reasons of sudden outbreak of this disease, whereas it was almost near its elimination, he briefed, “Pakistan was very close to its elimination but somehow during the last few years due to some insurgent especially in the KPK province there was inaccessibility of polio workers to go to those areas. And these were the areas where Polio is still present and periodically campaigns are required to eradicate this disease. Then as we know the incident of Shakil Afridi took place at Abbottabad, it was also one of the reasons that flared up the anger amongst few groups against the vaccination workers. And afterwards there was a chain of events and series of attacks which were made on Polio workers and unfortunately a lot of polio workers lost their lives in these attacks.”

Condemning the attacks on Polio workers he said that it was a crime which did not have any justification. “As per the doctrine of Islamic principal or if we keep the law of our land into consideration, no one is allowed to kill innocent worker who are already making our future generation safe. We should realise that if we are not able to eradicate Polio then we are likely to face number of sanction in the time to come especially after 2018. Secondly, there is likelihood that if the Polio stay on these countries then God forbid, thousands and thousands of children will be crippled, incapacitated, paralysed and abandoned to their families or the society. And of course there is another possibility that the disease is exported to the other countries and to the world as well,” he asserted.

When asked about the issue of haraam which has been associated with Polio vaccination and drops, he categorically denied that there is anything haraam in this these two. “If we just compare other Muslim countries, like Saudi Arabia where Islamic laws and principals are enforced, they have used the same vaccination and Polio drops to eradicate the Polio from their country. There is no issue haraam in those countries. So why is this issue over here?”

He also explained it further and said, “We have consulted Muslim doctors and Ulemas and all other groups and it was revealed that there was some misconception attached that it has got haraam ingredients. There is also a propaganda which was waged against the Polio drops and vaccination that it can cause sterility. Being Muslim doctors we consulted the companies which are producing the vaccines, we come to know that there is no haraam content in these vaccines and they are altogether safe and halal. Ulemas are also fully convinced and Fatawa was also issued by all Muslim school of thoughts.”

He also shared that recently he attend a meeting of OIC in Jeddah and in that meeting imam-e-Kabbah categorically sent a message in the whole Muslim World that it was the duty of every Muslim to support the campaign which is to eradicate Polio.

The Province of Punjab which is almost 60 per cent of the population is now polio free. Same is also for Sindh except for some particular areas of Karachi where access is not possible due to high security reason. In KPK there is only Tribal Area where there are myths and propagandas. And just 35 miles away in India there is no case of Polio for the last three years. So we must realise that who are those people who don’t want this country Polio free. Surely these people are not our friends. Being responsible citizens of Pakistan, we must play our role in helping all those campaigns against polio and helping the polio workers and giving them all the strength. By all means this disease is very critical and dangerous and it needs to be eliminated from our dear homeland.

The writer is a journalist based in Lahore who has sought extensive experience as sub editor in the newsroom as well as a field reporter. He has worked for different reputed newspapers in Pakistan and is presently associated with daily ‘TheNation’. He regularly reports and writes for the newspaper and its weekly magazine 'Sunday Plus'. He can be reached at faizan.hussain@hotmail.com

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