PAKISTAN

Polio vaccination drive starts in Pakistan's troubled northwest

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 March, 2014, 6:08am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 March, 2014, 5:12pm
AFP

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Pakistani health teams will today launch a drive to vaccinate some 750,000 children in the troubled northwest, with thousands of police guarding against attacks by militants who claim the polio campaign is a front for spying.

The campaign in Peshawar district, which covers Peshawar city and dozens of towns and villages, is the ninth phase of a push to eradicate polio in Pakistan which, along with Nigeria and Afghanistan is one of only three countries where the disease remains endemic.

The World Health Organisation has warned that Peshawar is the world's largest "reservoir" of polio.

"At least 750,000 children will be administered the vaccine in Peshawar district where 335,000 houses have been identified for the purpose," campaign organiser Yunus Zaheer said yesterday.

The campaign, which started in February, will continue until the end of April. Zaheer said more than 12,500 workers would administer the vaccines, with protection by 6,700 police officers.

According to the WHO, Pakistan recorded 91 cases of polio last year, up from 58 in 2012. Its neighbour India recently celebrated eradication of the disease three years after its last case.

Some 56 people, including health workers and police officials providing security, have been killed in militant attacks on polio vaccination teams in Pakistan since December 2012.