Festivities for a polio-free Pakistan

An innovative way to reach Punjab’s nomads with polio information and vaccine

20120321_Pakistan
Popular singers enthralled the audience with spiritual and classical music at the Nomad Children’s Festival for Polio Awareness at Lahore recently. © UNICEF Pakistan/Nahyan Mirza

21 March, 2012 – Eradicating polio is not all fun and games – except when it is!

Around 3,000 happy members of Punjab’s nomadic tribes converged at the Nomad Children’s Festival for Polio Awareness in Lahore, Pakistan, recently for a sunny day filled with fun, food, music, dancing and polio awareness. A joint initiative of UNICEF and the Rural Organization for Awareness and Development (ROAD), the festival was a unique initiative, both for UNICEF Pakistan as well as the nomads, many of whom had never experienced such festivities before.

The nomads of Punjab constitute one of the major high risk groups for polio transmission in Pakistan. Reaching them, both with information on polio vaccination and the vaccine itself, is not always straightforward. But during the festivities, some 1,406 children received oral polio vaccine (OPV) and over 100 others were reached with routine immunization vaccines at the venue.

Measures such as this one may be critical in turning around Pakistan’s progress towards polio eradication. In 2011, Pakistan reported the most cases of wild poliovirus out of any country (198), and the country has already reported 15 cases this year (as of 13 March). In November 2011, the Pakistani Government launched the newly reinvigorated National Emergency Action Plan for Polio (NEAP) in an attempt to reboot the country’s polio eradication effort.

Pakistan’s Technical Advisory Group (TAG) on polio eradication is meeting 21-22 March to review the current epidemiology and the impact of the new emergency action plan. The group will also discuss a number of technical issues and innovative approaches, such as potentially immunizing older age groups in and around areas that are difficult to access due to conflict.

Read more on the festival here.

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