Pakistan’s polio-free dream is far away

Pakistan’s polio-free dream is far away
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Nicola Costantin

Pakistan and Human Rights Researcher

Global Human Rights Defence

Pakistan has confirmed different cases of polio after more than a year. The country believed that they succeeded in eradicating the virus from society, but health officials have formally announced the first case in North Waziristan, at the border with Afghanistan (Janjua, 2022). Dr. Shahzad Baig, a coordinator with the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme, said to the Guardian that “Pakistan put in place contingency plans to enable a rapid response. It continues to intensify its efforts to eradicate all remaining residual transmission of any strain of poliovirus.” (Janjua, 2022). Moreover, the new PM Sharif called an emergency meeting of the national polio task force (Janjua, 2022). 

According to the WHO, Pakistan is among one only two countries, along with Afghanistan, still eradicating the poliovirus, which has disabled and killed millions in the past (Ellis-Petersen & Baloch, 2020). Unfortunately, the vaccination campaign is undermined by Islamist militants and hardline clerics who boost beliefs that government vaccination is a cover to sterilize children and allow infiltration by western spies (Janjua, 2022). Moreover, since 2012, militant groups have even killed more than 100 polio workers and security staff, halting the Pakistan vaccine drive (Lamble, 2019). 

Nevertheless, Baig has started to work more closely with the community in order to address this skepticism around the vaccine. Specifically, he has started with work closely with female religious persons, who are offering awareness-raising sessions to other women in the area. He stated that “this is, so far, [is] running very successfully” (Janjua, 2022).


Janjua, H. (2022, April 25). Spectre of polio returns to haunt Pakistan as baby boy is left paralysed. The Guardian. Retrieved May 4, 2022, from

Ellis-Petersen, H., & Baloch, S. M. (2020, November 3). The women who risk their lives to deliver Pakistan’s polio vaccines. The Guardian. Retrieved May 4, 2022, from

Lamble, L. (2020, October 15). Killings of police and polio workers halt Pakistan vaccine drive. The Guardian. Retrieved May 4, 2022, from