An increase in the number of new cases of polio among children has prompted Pakistani authorities to launch a nationwide anti-polio drive on Monday. This is the sixth such campaign this year and will last for five days, inoculating children under the age of 5 in high-risk areas. Islamabad and high-risk districts in eastern Punjab and southwestern Baluchistan were targeted in the latest campaign. According to AP, a similar campaign will be launched in the northwest in the first week of December.
Polio campaigns are regularly conducted in Pakistan despite attacks on inoculation workers and police officers. 20 newly diagnosed polio cases have been reported in Pakistan since April, a blow to efforts to eradicate the disease, which can cause paralysis in children. Only one case of polio was reported in Pakistan last year, making Pakistan close to eradicating the disease. New cases have since been reported in the northwest, forcing the government to launch anti-polio campaigns across the country at short intervals.
Earlier this month, a similar campaign was launched. A $1.2 billion pledge was made by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation earlier this month in support of Pakistan’s anti-polio campaign. The funds will be used for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s strategy through 2026. According to the foundation, the initiative aims to eradicate polio from Pakistan and Afghanistan, the last two endemic countries.