The rise of polio cases in Pakistan is alarming. The statistics are highly concerning- the number of polio cases reported in 2019 has increased by more than four times- a total of 53 cases have been reported this year, compared to 12 in 2018, and the year is not even over yet.

Fortunately, Prime Minister Imran Khan has taken notice of what can only be called an epidemic of polio. The Prime Minister called a special meeting on Wednesday to discuss the recent spike in polio cases, where he stated that he will be heading the drive himself from November onwards. During the meeting, Khan stated that polio eradication is the “top-most priority of the government as it affects the future generation” to the attendees, who included high level government officials like the Chief Ministers of KPK and Balochistan, members of the Pakistan Army and representatives of the United Nations and international polio-countering foundations.

Pakistan and Nigeria have both been countries identified by the International Monetary Board as problematic areas at risk of polio; however, in the past two years, Nigeria has nearly eradicated polio whereas the rate of polio cases is increasing in Pakistan. It is essential to analyse reports of the IBM which lay out recommendations and understand what changes need to be made in our policy. Pakistan suffers a unique problem with respect to polio- our anti-polio drives have been plagued with local resistance and misconceptions. This indicates that the problem is more than just funding or shortage of emergency centres as it was in Nigeria- anti-polio drives have an “image” problem which needs to be countered by way of marketing, social media and initiative by political actors to induce a positive narrative of anti-polio workers. It is hoped that Khan’s involvement in this will be a big boost towards the drive and this menace can be eradicated from Pakistan once and for all.