Pakistan, which recorded the largest number of polio cases in 2011, has announced that it hopes to become a polio-free nation in the next two years.
But the task is proving to be tough in the troubled tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, admitted Shahnaz Wazir Ali, Pakistan Prime Minister Youuf Raza Gilani's representative for polio eradication.
AdvertisementAli is visiting India as the head of a nine-member Pakistani delegation to study how India banished polio.
According to UN statistics, Pakistan registered 198 cases of polio in 2011, up from 144 cases in 2010. According to Ali, only 16 cases have been reported so far this year.
Ali says that 75 percent of the cases are spread from Pashtun tribes from the troubled Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the Afghan border.
"Mostly the cases of polio are reported from FATA, particularly from the Pashtun tribes, because reaching them for polio vaccination is very difficult," says Ali.
Polio cases in Pakistan dropped to 32 in 2007 but again started rising, she said, adding that natural calamities like floods also affected the drive.
Ali explains that the increase in cases was primarily because of Pashtun migration to other parts of Pakistan due to disturbance in the area.
Delegation member Azra Fazal Pechuho, a member of Pakistan's national assembly, admitted that the task of administering polio drops in the tribal areas was a mammoth task.
Health workers have to either wait for a brief ceasefire, during which vaccines are rushed to the region, or wait for the tribals to come out.
The Pakistani delegation said they were impressed by the methods India took to battle polio.
"We got to know what actually took India to make it polio free. We have understood the scale and efforts we require to make Pakistan polio free," Ali added.
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