Pakistan is being urged to vaccinate all of its children against polio amid a dangerous outbreak that has reached Syria and neighbouring countries.
The World Health Organisation said on Wednesday that 21 nations from the Middle East and surrounding area signed a joint declaration on eradicating the disease, pointing to Pakistan as a key part of the problem.
The UN’s health organisation said said earlier this week that the polio virus had been confirmed in 13 of 22 children who became paralyzed in a northern Syrian province.
The WHO said the Syria outbreak comes from a strain that originated in Pakistan, where, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, it is endemic – and has been spreading across the Middle East.
It says the virus has been detected in Egypt, and closely related strains of Pakistani origin turned up in sewage samples in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but higher immunisation rates in those places have helped keep the virus in check.
Pakistan approved the resolution, which the WHO says includes Afghanistan, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the UAE, and Yemen.
Pakistan’s efforts to vaccinate children against the disease are often frustrated by attacks by fighters, including those from organistations such as the Pakistan Taliban, who claim the programme is a Western front to undermine them.