Pakistan, which accounts for nearly 80 per cent of polio cases globally, remains the “greatest single risk” to eradicating the crippling disease due to a ban imposed by militants on immunisation, the WHO has said.
The World Health Organisation in its progress report held Pakistan responsible for failing to curb the surge in polio cases after the country reported 206 new cases this year, surpassing its earlier peak of 199 cases detected in 1999.
“Pakistan remains the greatest single risk to the achievement of global polio eradication,” the report said.
It said the situation is primarily “due to a lack of access to children for vaccination, largely owing to a continuing ban on immunisation imposed by militants in the North and South Waziristan, and insecurity and killing of polio workers in the field.”
“Issues involving children’s access to immunisation and safety of vaccinators must be resolved to ensure that the programme can be completed,” the report said.
Pakistan faces massive resistance to its anti-polio efforts by Taliban militants, who consider polio vaccines a conspiracy to sterile Muslims and regularly attack polio workers and their police escorts to discourage anti-polio campaigns.
More than 16,000 children were missed around Peshawar, the provincial capital of militancy-hit Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, earlier this month as their parents refused to let their kids be immunised.
Pakistan, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, are the only three countries in the world where polio remains endemic.
The WHO in May imposed travel restrictions on people travelling from Pakistan to other countries.
India, a polio-free country, was the only nation which imposed such restrictions even before the WHO took action against Pakistan.