PESHAWAR: The number of families chronically refusing polio vaccines to their children due to its connection with American CIA and Dr Shakeel Afridi have sharply increased, making health officials believe that the polio battle in Lakki Marwat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is about to be lost, if concrete steps were not taken to restore public trust in the conservative southern district.
This correspondent obtained official minutes of a meeting chaired by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief secretary Ghulam Dastagir Akhtar last week and a ‘social map’ showing that Lakki Marwat district is fast becoming a massive challenge for countering polio refusals in the country.
The government officials present in the meeting told ‘The News’ that Lakki Marwat has an important position in polio eradication due to its strategic location as it borders the Taliban-controlled South Waziristan Agency.
“Due to the ban on polio immunisation in the adjoining South Waziristan and North Waziristan tribal regions by local Taliban, the only way to vaccinate children against polio is through transit routes in Lakki Marwat,” said an official of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI).
Pleading anonymity, he noted that a sharp increase in the number of families refusing polio vaccine to their children was recorded there. He said up to 733 families only in a single union council refused polio drops to children after the National Research and Development Foundation (NRDF) developed differences with Unicef as Lakki Marwat was being looked after by NRDF very effectively before that.
“We have recorded a huge number of 733 refusals in Marmandi Azim union council during the last polio campaign,” he revealed, adding that the propaganda against polio campaign was fast growing in the Lakki Marwat district in general and other parts of KP in particular.