After more than a year of no cases in Pakistan, fourteen cases of wild poliovirus have been detected in southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) as of August 2022.
- Pakistan’s Polio Eradication Programme has scaled up remarkably well, and thus contained the virus from spreading. However, it continues to exist and circulate through six high-risk districts in southern KP.
- These areas have unique challenges in terms of insecurity, post-conflict rebuilding, administrative flux, and the Tochi River acting as a connection of water channels from Afghanistan to Pakistan’s Indus River.
- These challenges will require novel approaches to permanently interrupt the circulation of wild poliovirus in Pakistan. This can be done by:
- enhancing the public service ecosystem for vulnerable communities
- making immunisation a priority point in the TTP negotiations
- structurally recalibrating the polio eradication programme to increase worker motivations and synergise with other health interventions
- leveraging technologies for better access and microplanning.
For Pakistan to reach the finish line in becoming polio-free, it is critical to understand the complex challenges specific to the high-risk districts and how they can be addressed.