By Jamil Bhatti and Zeeshan Niazi
Children are always loving, affectionate and a source of happiness for their parents, but Zahida’s case is totally different. She has become a whole life burden for her parents since her body paralyzed completely with polio virus.
“We can’t abandon her, she is my daughter, not something that we can buy from the market,” said Nur Khan, the father in a very gloomy and disappointed mood.
He said that they did not know about the drops and that she was infected with polio, and if he knew she might not be in this poor condition.
When she fell ill, at the age of two in 1997, her family could not provide her with any proper treatment in time in the country’s restive northwestern Mohmand Agency and her ailment turned into severe situation.
“First she got temperature, we took her to a shrine for pray but she remained unchanged and finally her body started weakening,” said Zarina Bibi, the grandmother of Zahida.
“Later we consulted a doctor, he asked where you have been and said she has infected with polio and it was too late to treat her,” the gloomy grandmother said.
During last 23 years, World Health Organization-led Global Polio Eradication Initiative, spending billions of dollars and moving 20 million health workers, have vaccinated over two billion children in 125 countries around the world. The campaign has successfully almost wiped out the disease from all countries except four which have been continually harboring the polio disease and Pakistan is the only country where polio cases have been steadily increasing since 2008.
The number of polio cases in Pakistan has raised to 173 in 2011 despite its 17 years continually campaign against the disease.
According to the official data given by the National Institute of Health (NIH), most cases appeared from the areas hit by militancy or far flung areas where vaccination teams could not reach; 68 cases from Baluchistan province, 50 from NW tribal areas, 19 from northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 30 from Sindh, 5 from Punjab and one from Gilgit-Baltistan.
In 2009, 116 polio cases were registered while the year 2010 witnessed 144 cases. Dr. Fawad, health director of Federally Administrative Tribal Areas (FATA), said “81 percent of the cases occurred in those areas where polio teams could not reach due to security reasons and polio virus came to Pakistan with the immigrants from Afghanistan.”
“From birth to age of 15 years, there are possibilities to be infected with polio virus, but below five is the age of high risk and then 6 months to one year is extremely dangerous for the kids,” said Dr. Musa, who is working for WHO.