On his visit to Pakistan and meeting the country's prime minister, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said polio eradication is possible in the near future. However, the outcome is uncertain due to situation in the neighboring Afghanistan.
Addressing the press in the capital Islamabad he said that polio spread has continued in Pakistan and Afghanistan and the steps being taken by Pakistan this year may probably help in eradicating the virus. The vaccination rates have increased now after a significant drop in the past couple of years.
Faisal Sultan, special assistant to the Pakistan PM on health, said they are engaging with the administration in Afghanistan related to the polio issues. The two countries are in conversations to ensure a synchronized campaign as Pakistan and Afghanistan are adjacent to each other.
Meanwhile, it has been more than a year that no new case of polio has been reported in Pakistan but the virus was detected late last year in sewerage samples.
Afghanistan reported four cases of polio in 2021 and one in 2022.
Pakistan felicitated Bill Gates with the Hilal-e-Pakistan award, which is one of the largest civilian awards in the country.
Polio virus attacks the spinal cord in the human body and weakens the muscles. It enters the human body through the mouth and leads to paralysis. It is common in infants and mainly occurs in poor hygiene conditions.
Afghanistan is one of the least developed countries and ranks 15th in the world. The maternal mortality rate is high at 396 of 100,000 births. Life expectancy is about 60 years. The country has more than 100 hospitals and advanced treatments are only made available in the capital Kabul. Decades of war have led to a high disability rate. A report reveals there are about 80,000 people who have missing limbs.