250,000 health workers have fanned out across Pakistan to vaccinate
millions of children against polio in a week-long drive, officials said
yesterday, in the country’s push against the crippling disease.
The drive would target 38.6mn children under the age of five, said Safdar Rana, who leads Pakistan’s fight against polio.
The children of Afghan refugees who frequently travel between the two countries would also be administered the vaccine, Rana added.
Pakistan and Afghanistan are two of a few countries in the world where polio remains endemic.
The UN-funded vaccination campaign has, however, helped Pakistan to control the spread as the number of new affected children came down to only four so far this year, compared to 306 in 2014.
“Pakistan is at its closest ever to its goal (of polio eradication),” Rana said.
The disease that cripples children for life spread in the country’s mountainous northwest near the Afghan border, which remained under the control of militants linked with Al Qaeda for several years.
The militants have killed hundreds of health workers and police guarding them because they believe the polio vaccine is intended to make Muslim children sterile.
A series of military offensives was launched against religious militants to ensure workers could reach children in previously inaccessible areas.
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