Islamabad: Pakistan today claimed that “most of the children” in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and adjoining tribal districts have been vaccinated against polio, even as it faces prospect of global travel restrictions over the deadly virus.
The claim came amid a visit by Director General of World Health Organization Margaret Chan here and fear that in the upcoming meeting of the UN health body, Pakistan might be placed on the list of countries like Nigeria and Afghanistan with precarious situation on polio.
This means various countries may impose tighter travel requirements for Pakistanis. India has already announced that all those travelling from Pakistan to the country from March 15 will need show polio vaccination certificate.
“About polio, more than anyone else, it is our concern. It is about the future and health of our children. The Federal and Provincial governments are focused on that issue. Unlike the perception, the reality is that most of the children in KPK and FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) have been inoculated,” Foreign Office spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said.
The Taliban and al-Qaeda linked militants have routinely attacked health workers giving out polio drops in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and tribal areas as the Taliban imposed a ban on vaccinations.
However, the WHO chief yesterday said she feared that restrictions may apply on Pakistanis travelling abroad on account of the dismal state of polio containment. At the same time, the international community could not abandon Pakistan to fight out the battle against polio, said Chan. Polio persists in Pakistan with militant groups seeing vaccination campaigns as a cover for espionage.
According to WHO, Pakistan recorded 91 cases of polio last year, up from 58 in 2012.
WHO also warned that Peshawar is the world’s “largest reservoir” of the crippling virus.
Aslam said Chan held a number of meetings and those were very constructive meetings.
“We have remained engaged with WHO in Geneva as well and while they understand the problem, the security threats, they are keen to help Pakistan overcome this problem and provide vaccination to all children.
“You may also recall that recently there was a meeting in Jeddah in which our focal person for polio, officials as well as some Ulema from the Muslim World participated. They came up with a fatwa that polio vaccination was perfectly legitimate. There was no need for concern.
“Moreover, the polio vaccine being used in Pakistan is procured from Indonesia, another Muslim country. This is an ongoing issue and we will remain engaged with WHO and other governments,” Aslam said.
Asked about possible travel restrictions, she said: “We have no information about any country, apart from only one country (India) which has done it, plans to impose restrictions on Pakistani travellers.”
Separately, regarding Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline‚ Aslam refuted the impression that Pakistan was not serious about the project. She said Iran is well-aware of Pakistan’s stance.
To question about the visit of the IAEA chief, she said Yukiya Amano has expressed complete confidence in the safety and security of our nuclear installations.