| GEO Pakistan|
| More polio cases may surface in NWFP, tribal areas: Govt|
| Updated at: 2258 PST, Friday, August 29, 2008|
ISLAMABAD: Minister for Health Sherry Rehman Friday said the breakdown of devolution system is badly impeding the polio immunization campaign, resulting into dramatic increase of polio cases in the country.
Replying to a question, the health minister told Senate that since the provincial governments are not answerable to the federation, they seldom take interest in the health programmes launched by the federal government.
"Delivery of vaccines at the grassroots level has totally failed after the devolution system as the EDOs, considered to be the focal persons at the local level, are not answerable to the federal government," the minister told the House.
She said according to latest data, the polio cases have mounted to 41, which had reduced to four after Shaheed Benazir Bhutto launched a comprehensive programme in 1996. The international monetary agencies have also extended their support for country's deliverance from polio.
"International agencies including WHO, UNICEF, GAVI, World Bank, DFID, Rotary International, CDC, UASID and Japanese government have donated Rs132.962 million for polio eradication during 2006-08and the total amount has been spent," she told the House in written reply.
She said the health department in Sindh has been activated to some extent after the province turned into a reservoir of polio cases, particularly Karachi city.
After Sindh, the minister said, threats of polio diseases are emerging from Northern Areas, tribal areas and refugee camps and added that inmate viruses are reaching the country through Western borders.
She said government is using the services of National Highway and Motorway Police to vaccinate children. She observed that lack of security checks at Afghan border is another issue causing polio threats.
Sherry Rehman told the Senate that surge in diseases in not the problem pervading Pakistan only rather it is a global phenomenon as even in US, the number of measles cases are mounting by the day.
"But they have huge funds to be spent in health sector. The health budget of US government is heftier than that of defense budget of the country," she said.
She said during the delivery of vaccine to the grass roots level, it becomes unusable as the vaccination teams do not keep it at the required temperature.
"World Health Organization is also supporting us in polio immunization process, but it has also concerns regarding the poor delivery system that can only be improved if the accountability mechanism is introduced," the health minister stated.
"If the accountability mechanism is not introduced, then the provincial governments should be held responsible," she said in a concerned tone.
Regarding immunization campaign in tribal and Northern Areas,she said some extremist elements are dissuading the people about polio vaccination alleging that it would lead to impotency.
"Extremists are using different communication methods to propagate their ideas including illegal FM radio stations. I have talked to ISPR as such elements are not only challenging writ of the government but also impeding to health programmes," she informed the House.
Sherry Rehman said as many as 33 million children have been immunized through polio vaccination and a lot is yet to be done, assuring that the government is committed to provide public health services and social welfare to the people.
To another question, the health minister said the Hepatitis C is on rise in the country and 12 million people are being affected that is about 7 percent of the total population of the country.