The World Health Organization (WHO) has once again extended the polio-related travel restrictions on Pakistan for another three months. The development comes after Pakistan was blamed for transferring poliovirus to Malawi, a small country in southeast Africa.
The global public health agency had initially imposed the restrictions in 2014 as Pakistan struggled to contain the spread of the poliovirus back then. Since 2014, WHO has been extending the restrictions after every three months.
According to details, a three-year-old Malawian girl was diagnosed with WPV1 strain of the poliovirus in November last year. The emergency committee of the Polio International Health Regulations (PIHR) had blamed the detection on Pakistan.
This strain of poliovirus was initially found in the interior areas of Sindh such as Thatta and Badin. It was later transferred to Karachi before completely disappearing from Pakistan. This particular variant of poliovirus has not been detected in the country since 2019.
When asked about PIHR’s statement regarding Pakistan after the visit of Bill Gates in February 2022, Dr. Faisal Sultan, SAPM on Health, had categorically rejected the claims of PIHR.
WPV1 must have been circulating in Malawi for a couple of years before the emergence of the first case in November 2021 because Pakistan has not reported a single case of poliovirus resulting from WPV1 since 2019, said Dr. Faisal.
Dr. Faisal had also slammed PIHR for linking Pakistan with the detection of WPV1 in Malawi merely on the basis of the most recent case of the poliovirus strain, which dates back to pre-2019.
Certainly, PIHR’s claims seem unreasonable because Bill Gates, the co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, had also praised Pakistan’s polio program during his first-ever visit to the country.