Garbage in Karachi keeping polio virus alive

Karachi (HRNW): Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah was informed on Tuesday that insufficient garbage lifting services is one of the reasons why polio is still prevalent in the city. During a meeting on the Provincial Task Force for Eradication of Polio, the officials said the causes of the polio cases detected in Karachi are a high refusal rate, migration of people from Balochistan and Afghanistan to Sindh and insufficient garbage lifting services. Shah directed the Karachi commissioner to start garbage lifting in District East, particularly in Gulshan and Gadap Town. He also directed Karachi Metropolitan Corporation Municipal Commissioner Dr Asghar Shaikh to sit with the local government secretary and work out a plan to cleanse major nullahs of the city.

“I want its implementation within 48 hours,” he said, adding that only Pakistan and Afghanistan are the countries where polio is still present. “With practical measures, we have achieved a better result but polio still exists in various parts of the province. We need to take stricter measures on war-footing basis to eradicate this virus,” Shah said. Reiterating his commitment to eliminate polio from the province, the CM issued directives to all divisional and district administration and health officers to work hard at administrating polio vaccine and keeping their areas clean. “This is a national war and we have to win it,” he added. Polio Eradication Coordinator Sindh Fayaz Jatoi said that the first polio case of 2017 was detected in August in Gulshan-e-Iqbal and another case emerged in November, 2017 in Gadap Town. He said that the causes are multiple as most parents refuse to vaccinate their children and keep moving from Karachi to Afghanistan, a polio-positive country.

Shah was informed that in 2014, there were 30 polio cases in the province, of which 23 were in Karachi. In 2015 the number decreased to 12 with seven in the city and in 2016 eight cases were detected with only one in Karachi. In 2017, only two cases were reported and both were in the city. It may be noted that in 2014, there were 306 polio cases in Pakistan of which 30 were in Sindh. In 2015, out of 54 polio cases in the country, 12 were in the province; while in 2016, out of 19 cases, eight were from Sindh and in 2017, out of eight polio cases in the country, only two were in the province. Jatoi mentioned that there are 8.6 million children all over Sindh of which 2.4 million are being vaccinated in Karachi. Polio teams administered vaccine to children all over Sindh. However, 175,004 did not receive the vaccine in December, 2017, of which 129,756 were in Karachi alone. He added that the children who did not receive the vaccination were either not present at home or their parents refused to let the teams vaccinate them. In Karachi, the refusal rate in 2017 remained at 7.01% while it was 0.8% in rest of Sindh.

The chief minister directed all divisional commissioners concerned to take measures to clean their cities. He also directed chief secretary to record the performance of all assistant commissioners, deputy commissioners and commissioners in terms of polio eradication in their annual confidential reports. “This is a serious issue and we all have to work in close coordination to save our children from this crippling disease,” Shah said, adding that he may introduce legislation making it illegal to refuse polio vaccination. He also directed the commissioners to target water and sanitation interventions in high risk union councils, cleaning of blocked sewage nullahs, regular removal of garbage and restoration of water supply. The meeting was attended by MNA Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho, Health Minister Dr Sikandar Mendhro, Principal Secretary to CM Sohail Rajput, Sindh IG Allah Dino Khawaja, Additional IG Karachi Mushtaq Mahar, all divisional commissioners and representatives from World Health Organisation, United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, among others.

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