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72 polio cases in Pakistan in 2013: WHO

05 December, 2013

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan recorded 72 cases of polio this year compared to 58 for all of 2012, a World Health Organisation (WHO) official said on Wednesday.

Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world where the highly infectious crippling disease remains endemic. But opposition from militant groups has hampered efforts to immunise children, with vaccination teams murdered in some cases. Officials said the violence and suspicions about the vaccine were the reason for the increase in cases.

"Pakistan has reported 72 polio cases which is highest in comparison to two other countries with the disease, as Nigeria has 50 cases and Afghanistan reported only nine during 2013," Elias Durry, emergency coordinator for the WHO's Polio Eradication Pakistan Program, told reporters.

According to a global update for polio cases, Pakistan had 58 cases last year while Nigeria had 110 and Afghanistan 31. Six cases this year have been reported in Punjab, six in Sindh and 10 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. But by far the bulk of the infections 50 were in the lawless tribal areas along the Afghan border. The Pakistani Taliban banned polio vaccinations in the tribal region of Waziristan last year, alleging the campaign was a cover for espionage.

"We successfully immunised over 33 million children during the recent vaccination campaign while 2.3 million children were recorded missed during the campaign," Durry said. He said that in most cases children were missed in the areas where the law and order situation was not favourable, and where vaccination teams faced security threats. More than 47,000 children missed vaccination because of parental refusals.

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